WASHINGTON, Oct. 11, 2012 — The latest episode in the American Chemical Society's (ACS') award-winning Global Challenges/Chemistry Solutions podcast series reports development of a new transparent solar cell, an advance toward giving windows in homes and other buildings the ability to generate electricity while still allowing people to see outside.
In the new episode, Yang and Weiss explain that there has been intense world-wide interest in so-called polymer solar cells (PSCs), which are made from plastic-like materials, to generate energy. The advantages of PSCs are that they are lightweight and flexible and can be produced in high volume at low cost. Researchers also have been interested in making the PSCs transparent. However, previous versions of transparent PSCs have had many disadvantages, which the team set out to correct.
The scientists describe a new kind of PSC that they've developed that produces energy by absorbing mainly infrared light, not visible light, making the cells 66 percent transparent to the human eye. They made the device from a photoactive plastic that converts infrared light into an electrical current. Another breakthrough is the transparent conductor, which replaces the opaque metal electrode used in the past. The authors suggest the panels could be used in smart windows or portable electronics.