Inexpensive colored glass coming to solar harvesting windows

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Two MIT researchers have developed a simple method to use “organic solar concentrators” — colored glass — to create windows framed by solar cells that can “increase the electrical power obtained from each solar cell ‘by a factor of over 40′”. The concentrators not only make it possible to create windows (albeit colored ones) that let in some light while also harvesting solar power, but are also much less expensive than intricate mechanical systems used to rotate existing solar panels.

The MIT solar concentrator involves a mixture of two or more dyes that is essentially painted onto a pane of glass or plastic. The dyes work together to absorb light across a range of wavelengths, which is then re-emitted at a different wavelength and transported across the pane to waiting solar cells at the edges.

In the 1970s, similar solar concentrators were developed by impregnating dyes in plastic. But the idea was abandoned because, among other things, not enough of the collected light could reach the edges of the concentrator. Much of it was lost en route.

As “sixswitch” said in the MeFi thread: “I just can’t believe it took this long for someone to go from ‘Hey, this Space Lego piece is bright along the edge’ to building this.”

Dye-coated glass to channel energy into solar cells [ScienceCentric.com]

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5 Responses to Inexpensive colored glass coming to solar harvesting windows

  1. FutureNerd says:

    #4 CHEVAN (and sixswitch), the second half of that quote does at least mention what the problem with colored plastic is… wtf, over?

  2. bardfinn says:

    I read about this on Friday and did lots of research (punching numbers into spreadsheets) over the weekend (after punching the floor over how stupid I felt for not thinking this kind of thing up).

    These guys are using a specific ratio of dyes – the makeup of which is likely to be patented and kept a trade secret.

    This will revolutionise home / industrial solar installations, but there’s still the silicon solar cells that have to be placed at the edges, which will eat up some real estate, unless they do some nifty geometry tricks with bending the glass collectors.

    I’d love to see these guys’ math, to work out the optimal size for the collector sheets before they’re delivering too much light for the silicon to convert, or losing more light than is acceptable.

  3. Dan Wineman says:

    Yeah, but you can’t both patent something and keep it secret.

  4. Chevan says:

    “I just can’t believe it took this long for someone to go from ‘Hey, this Space Lego piece is bright along the edge’ to building this.”

    That’s exactly what I was thinking about halfway through the article quote.

    What can’t Lego do?

  5. Scuba SM says:

    I read about this (and even submitted it, it’s prolly in the backlogs of submissions somewhere) and really got geeked out about it. I’d really like to see something like this, but with those organic dyes set up like the privacy glass that darkens on command (I think it uses the same tech as LCD screens). Set it up with a dial, and you can dial the light transmission to whatever you want, just like blinds.

    Incidentally, this concept also works for capturing “waste” light, if you’re in a building with the windows at night with a light on. Granted, you’re not going to capture a significant amount of energy that way, but you’re capturing some losses.

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