PORTLAND, Ore. Paint-on solar panels could boost current energy efficiency by 50 percent while making new solar panel installations virtually invisible by painting organic dyes onto windows.
By absorbing light and transporting energy to panel edges, developers of the paint-on solar panels said they could lower cost by only requiring active solar cells around a panel edges.
Solar concentrators usually have to track the sun with mirrors or light troughs, then dissipate heat building up at their focal points, according to Marc Baldoat, an engineering professor at the Massachusetts Institute of technology. His organic-dye coating process absorbs the light without mirrors, has no focal point to heat up and requires no moving parts.
Edge-mounted solar cells, where light is concentrated by as much as 40 times, then convert the energy to electricity.
The dyes absorb light across a glass panels surface in a range of wavelengths, then transport energy across the panel and re-emit it at a different wavelength in solar cells at the edges. Since active solar cells need only be mounted around the edge of these panels, they will be cheaper than traditional solar panels, Baldo claimed.
Shalom Goffri, a postdoctoral associate in MIT's Research Laboratory of Electronics also contributed to the work, along with doctoral candidates Michael Currie, Jon Mapel and Timothy Heidel.
Using dyes to transport light across a solar panel's surface has been tried before using polymers, according to the researchers. The MIT technique represents the first time it has been applied to glass. The application of several coats of different dyes allowed the researchers to control which wavelengths are absorbed, as well as minimize losses as energy is transported to the edge-mounted solar cells.
Funding for development of the paint-on solar panels was provided by the National Science Foundation, MIT's Research Laboratory of Electronics, Microsystems Technology Laboratories and the Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies.