Environment

Spray-on film turns windows into solar panels

Spray-on film turns windows in...
EnSol's film being applied inside a deposition chamber
EnSol's film being applied inside a deposition chamber
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EnSol's film being applied inside a deposition chamber
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EnSol's film being applied inside a deposition chamber

Imagine if all the windows of a building, and perhaps even all its exterior walls, could be put to use as solar collectors. Soon, you may not have to imagine it, as the Norweigan solar power company EnSol has patented a thin film solar cell technology designed to be sprayed on to just such surfaces. Unlike traditional silicon-based solar cells, the film is composed of metal nanoparticles embedded in a transparent composite matrix, and operates on a different principle. EnSol is now developing the product with help from the University of Leicester’s Department of Physics and Astronomy.

"One of the key advantages is that it is a transparent thin film that can be coated onto window glass so that windows in buildings can also become power generators,” said Chris Binns, Professor of Nanotechnology at Leicester. “Obviously some light has to be absorbed in order to generate power but the windows would just have a slight tinting (though a transmission of only 8-10% is common place for windows in the ‘sun belt’ areas of the world). Conversely the structural material of the building can also be coated with a higher degree of absorption. This could be side panels of the building itself, or even in the form of ‘clip-together’ solar roof tiles.”

For the time being, the research partners are developing prototype squares of the material, measuring 16 square centimeters each. The researchers say that, due to nanotech research that has already been performed at Leicester, the institution is uniquely suited for production of the film. Ultimately, EnSol hopes to achieve a cell efficiency of at least 20 percent, and have its product ready for the commercial market by 2016.

This development is reminiscent of Sphelar cells – solidified silicon drop-based solar cells recently developed by Kyosemi Corporation. Although the technology is different, they are also intended to be used in solar panels that double as windows.

22 comments
mrhuckfin
I\'ve been hearing about these things for a few years now and have yet to see one come to market? I hope this isn\'t like all the others I\'ve read about.
wealthychef
LOL, hopes to be ready by 2016. Just a few minor things to work out, like how it\'s actually going to work, whether it will cost $10 per square foot, and whether it will last more than a week in real conditions. Vaporware! I\'m still excited to see all the work being done on alternative energy, and am hoping for the Big Day when one of these amazing technologies actually replaces coal plants to any degree.
Skipjack
I am having a very strong feeling of deja vu here. Didnt I read that before, like a few years ago?
Facebook User
It\'s a good time to be alive.
earlleonard
It took, what 40 years for computers to be available commercially, 7 years for CDs to go from prototype to release (and longer to really reach commercial viability). Why all the bitching about how new technologies take years to develop these days? That\'s how long these things take! If you don\'t want to know about developments/ideas years before commercial viability, stop reading the newsletter.
Mr Stiffy
Yeah yeah yeah .... I am a bit tired of the \"Imagine\" and \"the grand plans for the future\".
Window glass $25 extra a square meter for the solar conversion film, from the glaziers - here, now, today.
The big sell of \"The friendly atom - where every home one day will have their own nuclear reactor in the basement giving unlimited energy forever\" (and in the car, and in the plane, and and and and ) hasn\'t quite worked out.
I mean we have had decades of the \"Golly wow gee\" hype.
jochair
they don\'t want to electrocute the window cleaners
Craig Jennings
They\'re still quite tight with uranium :( We can\'t have it at all here in NZ. All about 2 heads, glowing children and bombs or something. Otherwise I\'d be up for a DIY pebble bed in the basement.... once I clear out the bodies... don\'t want zombies and you really don\'t want mutant radioactive zombies. ANY advancement in Solar technology is a blessing... but just like some others... quite itchy to see it (I think that\'s why I\'m itchy)
Harpal Sahota
This is real science-\'nonfiction\'... and if True, its going to re-invent the good uses of Nano Technology.




Keep It Going!


Harpal Sahota.
Fabian Rousset
These are great, just making it a bit harder to sell current solar technology when these companies come up with ideas and bs claims that probably wont come through. People tend to say, \"why buy now, when tomorrow our windows will be solar panels.\" Like someone said, vaporware, it makes me have to bring them back to reality with all the plentiful examples of technology that \"will be ready in 10 years\".