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Electricity Generating Windows

Groundbreaking solar cells could be used in windows, greenhouses and glass facades, as well as in the screens of portable electronic devices.

Woman sitting on a window sill, looking out

Current solar panels could never be described as attractive features. So, wouldn't it be good news if you couldn't see them at all? Well, scientists have achieved a new efficiency record for dye-sensitized solar cells (DSCs), opening up new commercial possibilities for transparent solar panels.

A team from École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland made the breakthrough using specially designed photosensitizer dye molecules that when combined are capable of harvesting light from across the entire visible light spectrum. Better yet, the transparent properties of DSCs make them suitable for use in windows. The researchers also say they can be used in the screens of portable electronic devices. Could this be the end of battery angst?

DSCs are flexible, relatively low-cost and can be made using conventional roll-printing techniques. Theoretically, the price/performance ratio is also good enough to allow them to compete with fossil fuel electrical generation.

The first commercial applications are already being realised, with dye-sensitized solar windows installed in the SwissTech Convention Center, however their capacity for generating electricity has so far been restricted by their lack of efficiency compared to traditional solar cells.

The study, titled ‘Hydroxamic acid preadsorption raises efficiency of cosensitized solar cells’, was published in the scientific journal Nature.



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