Transparent solar cells can be used for windows that generate electricity

The researchers developed a polymer solar cell (PSC) that produces energy by absorbing infrared light, not visible light, making the cells nearly 70% transparent to the human eye.

The solar cells were created from a photoactive plastic that converts infrared light into electricity.

“These results open the potential for visibly transparent polymer solar cells as add-on components of portable electronics, smart windows and building-integrated photovoltaics and in other applications,” said study leader Yang Yang, a UCLA professor of materials science and engineering.

“Our new PSCs are made from plastic-like materials and are lightweight and flexible. More importantly, they can be produced in high volume at low cost,” said Yang, who is also director of the Nano Renewable Energy Center at California NanoSystems Institute (CNSI).

These new cells were created using a mixture of silver nanowire and titanium dioxide nanoparticles.

The photoactive polymer absorbs more near-infrared light but is less sensitive to visible light, thus managing to balance solar cell performance and transparency.

“We are excited by this new invention on transparent solar cells, which applied our recent advances in transparent conducting windows to fabricate these devices,” said Paul S.Weiss, CNSI director and Fred Kavli Chair in NanoSystems Sciences.