It is called a transparent luminescent solar concentrator, and researchers from Michigan State University report that they can be used on buildings, cell phones and any other device that has a clear surface.
Harvesting energy from greenhouses instantly came to mind when I first heard about this.
If the idea of transparent solar concentrators lives up to its potential and becomes cost effective, then imagine the kind of energy you could harvest from a large greenhouse to run irrigation systems and provide heating.
It could very well become reality because while the technology is at an early stage, it has the potential to be scaled to commercial or industrial applications with an affordable cost.
Richard Lunt, assistant professor of chemical engineering and materials science at MSU’s College of Engineering led the development of this solar harvesting system that uses small organic molecules to absorb specific nonvisible wavelengths of sunlight.
We can tune these materials to pick up just the ultraviolet and the near infrared wavelengths that then ‘glow’ at another wavelength in the infrared,” Lunt explained in a statement. “Because the materials do not absorb or emit light in the visible spectrum, they look exceptionally transparent to the human eye.
Of course there’s the question of how something like this would affect plant growth if certain wavelengths of light are absorbed, but it sure has potential.
Image: G L Kohuth/MSU
More work is certainly needed in order to improve the energy-producing efficiency. Right now it only has an efficiency of 1 percent, but their aim is to reach efficiencies beyond 5 percent.
I hope they succeed!