I’ve never really been a big fan of solar power for at least wide spread use because of its inherent limitations (sunny Arizona might do quite well with solar power but rainy Washington probably wouldn’t work out so well). However, leave it to scientists (actually MIT engineers) to find a way to get me even interested into the future of solar power.
It seems that they have found a way to use ordinary windows coated with certain dyes to collect solar energy.
MIT engineers have turned plain glass into a virtual goldmine of solar energy with the help of a sophisticated, yet affordable, concentrator developed by them.
The technology, using dye-coated glass to collect and channel photons otherwise lost from a solar panel’s surface, could enable an office building to draw energy from its tinted windows as well as its roof.
The engineers coated glass panels with layers of two or more light-capturing dyes. The dyes absorbed incoming light and then re-emitted the energy into the glass, which served as a conduit to channel the light to solar cells along the panels’ edges.
The dyes can vary from bright colours to chemicals mostly transparent to visible light. Because the glass panel edges are so thin, far less semiconductor material is needed to collect light energy and convert it into power.
Because the materials are affordable, relatively easy to scale up beyond a lab setting, and easy to retrofit to existing panels, the researchers believe the technology could find its way to the marketplace within three years.
See, you might not believe me but I had thought about how cool it would be to actually have buildings that use their windows as solar energy collectors. I mean, for skyscrapers, this will give them tons more surface area to collect energy that just having traditional rooftop solar panels.
Now what really gets me excited about this particular technology is the whole “materials are affordable” part. As you probably know, scientists are constantly making some fairly cool stuff but then fail at making it even remotely economical to implement in the real world.
Once again I just want to state I am all for alternative energy sources as long as they are affordable and people are not coerced (by the government or otherwise) to use them. If the technology can survive and prosper on an open market, then by all means. I just hate all the subsidies that the government gives some of these schemes (tax breaks/incentives are a whole different thing).
I can’t wait to see just where this technology will go because it just might give the solar industry to boost it needs to really become one of the front runners in alternative energy.