Solar panels are seen as a way of making buildings greener and more sustainable, as well as making them less dependent on the grid for power. The problem is that the blue/black panels stick out like sore thumbs and end up exiled to rooftops. With the goal of making solar panels aesthetically invisible, the Swiss private, nonprofit technology company CSEM has developed what it bills as the world's first white solar modules – designed to blend into buildings instead of sitting on the roof.
The reason why most solar panels look like something off of a beetle’s back is because of the need to absorb visible light. Since nothing absorbs like something colored black, the photovoltaic cells that make up the panel are as dark as possible. That may do the job, but it also means that any solar panel installation looks like exactly what it is, which doesn’t leave architects with much latitude.
CSEM reasoned that what designers wanted was a panel that would come in different colors and has no visible connections, with white being the most desirable because of its versatility. The way in which the company managed this is with a plastic layer that goes over the panel. This layer acts as a scattering filter that reflects all visible light, yet lets in infrared rays, which allows the panel to generate electricity. CSEM claims that this layer works with any crystalline silicon cell and can be applied to any existing panel whether it’s flat or curved.
The company says that the technology has a number of advantages beside the cosmetic. Being white, the layer keeps the solar panels at a lower temperature, making them more efficient, as well as reducing air conditioning costs.
CSEM sees the technology as having not only applications in architecture, but in consumer goods such as laptops, phones, and vehicles such as cars and buses, as the layer is adapted to cover a range of colors.
The video below introduces the white solar panel technology.