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     Doctoral Student Yimu Zhao and Prof. Richard
     Lunt examine new transparent  solar cell.
     Photo by G.L. Kohuth.
Will Alexander of Motherboard brings us the fun news of an improvement in thin film solar panels that makes them transparent in the visible part of the EMF spectrum, but able to convert photons to electrons in  parts of the rest of the light spectrum.  In, With Transparent Solar Panels, Windows Could Harvest Energy Too, Alexander notes that while these new transparent thin-film solar collectors are only 1% efficient, researchers hope they can achieve 5% efficiency. Current solar PVC typically range from 15% to 25% with some new technologies, yet to be offered economically in high production even higher.  

But under the "smoke em if you got em" philosophy researcher asks 'why not pick up every bit of energy we can, from every surface available in large urban areas?'  

Researchers from Michigan State University report that they've developed transparent, luminescent concentrators that can be placed on windows, your phone screen—anything with a clear surface—without blocking the view. ... “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.”

The infrared light is trapped and guided to the edges of the plastic solar concentrator, where photovoltaic cells convert it into electricity. That's one of the reasons solar luminescent concentrators (LSCs) are attractive alternatives to more conventional photovoltaics: They can harvest light from a larger area without having to track the Sun. The materials are also comparatively inexpensive, which could potentially make for cheaper solar power.

The idea is like that of cheap, printable plastic solar panels, but its the transparency that makes it particularly attractive. This type of research has been conducted before in see-through films, but previous work used coloured materials and produced little energy. "No one wants to sit behind coloured glass," wrote Lunt. "We take an approach where we actually make the luminescent active layer itself transparent."

Coming back to Will Alexander's question of why not collect every photon available ffor conversion to electricity? Well, the issue would be return on investment. Perhaps we should be using every available surface area to capture solar energy. However, from the perspective of a strategy for converting our entire world to renewable energy and eliminating coal fired, and eventually all fossil fuel burning power plants A.S.A.P. shouldn't we go after the long-hanging fruit first?

Why not put up 20% efficient regular solar collectors on all the non-window parts of skyscrapers first? And, because of shadows, we should probably use up deserts and cheap land near for existing solar panels which are now nearing or already crossing grid parity in some areas.

In many southt-western desert states, in the U.S., vast unused areas near power hungry cities could be used with currently proven, cost-economical regular solar modules to generate large amount of electricity which will likely be more cost-effective than 1% collectors even taking into account the cost of improving transmission lines.

Please do not get me wrong, I'm excited about new technology and inventions, I'm posting this here. My only points are as advocate for renewable energy we have to keep our wits sharp and learn how to evaluate the hard core practical large-scale generation options from the really exciting new headlines of what may be a major contributor in the future.

Even now we can probably find immediate applications where available surface area is the constraining factor, rather than cost of efficiency. For example perhaps on space vehicles where every millimeter of possible energy capture space will want to be tapped. Alexander offer examples of keeping cell phones or e-readers charged, and using car windows.

Also, it's valuable for us to know about every possible option, and the way ttot analyze their pros and cons so we learn more about the science, economics behind the numerous dimension of converting our world to renewable, clean energy generation and eliminate fossil fuels.

Also please check out mimi's post Join the People's Climate March in NYC - All About CARBON - which is part of our blogging marathon to promote the People's Climiate March in NYC,  at 11:30 am, Sunday, September 21st.  

   

Originally posted to SciTech on Fri Aug 22, 2014 at 03:21 PM PDT.

Also republished by PostHuffPost: Connection-Conversation-Community , Climate Change SOS, and Kosowatt.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (49+ / 0-)

    Humor Alert! No statement from this UID is intended to be true, including this one. Intended for recreational purposes only. Unauthorized interpretations may lead to unexpected results. This waiver void where prohibited. Artistic License - 420420

    by HoundDog on Fri Aug 22, 2014 at 03:21:36 PM PDT

  •  Mount THem On SOlar Water HEating Units so (14+ / 0-)

    we are capturing both visible light for electricity as well as the infrared (heat) to make hot water.

    Capturing waste heat using antique technolog would seem to me to be the obvious way to nab energy failing to be converted to electricity, because we already know how to do that and for cheap.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Fri Aug 22, 2014 at 03:33:04 PM PDT

    •  Solar hot water panels (4+ / 0-)

      are already capturing energy outside the visible spectrum. I would strongly suspect that the conversion efficiency is far above the 5% they are hoping this technology can offer - meaning a loss in captured energy.

      Considering that windows are oriented at a far from ideal angle for solar energy capture, I expect the energy savings from not having the infrared captured by the film heating one's home through your windows would be a greater benefit than the hoped-for 5% of that energy being converted to electricity. In the summer, anyway.

      In short, other than helping (slightly) to maintain a charge in your I-phone I don't see much practical use for this. Skylights, maybe? But a roof has plenty of area to power the average home, and as Hound Dog suggests that is the place to start. And were we to finish covering the nation's roofs in solar panels, we would pretty much have solved the problem.

  •  Thanks HD (6+ / 0-)

    I voted Tuesday, May 6, 2014 because it is my right, my responsibility and because my parents moved from Alabama to Ohio to vote. Unfortunately, the republicons want to turn Ohio into Alabama.

    by a2nite on Fri Aug 22, 2014 at 03:35:18 PM PDT

  •  Wouldn't it be nice to make ALL forms of (29+ / 0-)

    power transparent?  Not just solar but also governmental . . .
    I'd love someday to see the Capitol dome replaced with a glass structure like that in Berlin over their legislature, and then cover that glass dome with these transparent power panels.  The Germans can even walk around inside the glass dome, looking down on the legislators as they deliberate.  The designer wanted to remind legislators they were being watched by the citizenry.  If only we could teach our legislators the lessons learned by the Germans . . .and do it without our own slow motion holocaust of deaths inflicted by racial and gun violence, protected by the deliberate obscurance of oceans of dark money spread over every action of government.  Thanks Houndog for an "enlightening" post!

    The penalty good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men. Plato Love of money is the root of all evil. Jesus Conclusion: If money rules politics, it will be dominated by evil men lining their pockets, not yours.

    by monkeybrainpolitics on Fri Aug 22, 2014 at 03:36:09 PM PDT

    •  This is the best comment I've read all day, all (12+ / 0-)

      week, and in the top ten for the whole month.

      And exactly the kind I used to do special "Friday Night Sillies" post to encourage.

      But, that was in the good ole days, before I sold out to "the man."

      Your comment is so good I'm going to have to stop everything I"m doing and figure out once again how to nominate "top comments."  

      Thanks monkey, you've made my day.

      Humor Alert! No statement from this UID is intended to be true, including this one. Intended for recreational purposes only. Unauthorized interpretations may lead to unexpected results. This waiver void where prohibited. Artistic License - 420420

      by HoundDog on Fri Aug 22, 2014 at 05:11:48 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I love this comment. I came back to (7+ / 0-)

      copy its url for Top Comments and now think you ought to make a whole post out of this.

      You've really "lightened" up my whole evening enlightened one.

      Now I'm charged up and in a much more positive mood.

      I think I can speak for all the other people making comments when I say what an electric feeling we all now have.

      I can't believe I wasn't already following you. I'd tell every one else to but we might short circuit the whole site.

      Cheery monkey. Your sense of humor is driving me bananas.

      Humor Alert! No statement from this UID is intended to be true, including this one. Intended for recreational purposes only. Unauthorized interpretations may lead to unexpected results. This waiver void where prohibited. Artistic License - 420420

      by HoundDog on Fri Aug 22, 2014 at 05:27:08 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Don't overdo it. (8+ / 0-)

        We can see right through you.

      •  Wow, thanks, and right back at ya (5+ / 0-)

        Thanks for cheering up my day too.  I'm supposed to retire this coming June and return to the US but am stuck here in Hong Kong until I can sell my house.  Had it on the market since October 2013.  Government has been trying to dampen what it calls a bubble in housing caused in large part by the Hong Kong dollar-US dollar link and super low interest rates in a 5% inflation environment, but all it's done is keep people from selling smaller houses and moving into larger ones because no one feels sure they can sell their own if they buy another.  Cut our price, unlike everyone else, several times.  It's literally the cheapest house of its size in Hong Kong, and maybe that's the problem (though not being cheapest didn't help either).  So unless I sell it by end of Sept, I have to re-up for another year or even two.  My wife and I have been planning 10 years to "retire" next year and start up an organic farm in beautiful Western Washington, on acreage looking straight at snow capped Mt Baker.  We have plans to build a passive solar, Net-zero energy home and use a greenhouse for aquaponics.  So I read all the green news, solar news, wind and other energy and environmental related posts on Kos (and the gardening and science posts), and I see your diaries all the time on such and related issues.  Always recommend them but seldom have had time to comment.  But university is out until first week of Sept. and I can't get my heart into revising syllabuses and prepping for classes, not with what feels like our whole future life and plans hanging by a fraying thread of fading hope.  But your diary made me think of one of my favorite photos of the German legislature's glass dome and Germany's strong commitment to renewable power.  And that made me think just how cool would it be to cover that dome with the transparent power panels you wrote about, and then came that wistful hope that someday my home country that I've been away from most of the past 26 years might similarly get enlightened.  So thanks for noting the comment so generously.  You never know when an electron or two cast to the winds will generate its own spark of light.

        The penalty good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men. Plato Love of money is the root of all evil. Jesus Conclusion: If money rules politics, it will be dominated by evil men lining their pockets, not yours.

        by monkeybrainpolitics on Sat Aug 23, 2014 at 01:28:47 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Did you see you are famous now in last nights (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          monkeybrainpolitics

          Top Comments?

          Sorry to hear about your house in Hong Kong.

          Would an auction help? Some time that motivate the opportunist real estate people who are "tracking" your distress and waiting for you to go even lower.

          Yes, my dream too is a self-sufficient retirement sanctuary.

          Good luck.

          I'm following you now so some of your high-brow, erudite humor may rub off on me.

          Humor Alert! No statement from this UID is intended to be true, including this one. Intended for recreational purposes only. Unauthorized interpretations may lead to unexpected results. This waiver void where prohibited. Artistic License - 420420

          by HoundDog on Sat Aug 23, 2014 at 09:58:43 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  No, haven't seen top comments yet (0+ / 0-)

            We're 12 hours exactly opposite the East Coast US time.  Had a few chores this morning before the expected (hoped for) Sunday real estate visits.  We had two yesterday (Sat in Hong Kong) so interest seems to be picking up.  Haven't had two visits in one day since early June.  Apparently auctions aren't used in Hong Kong for real estate.  They do open houses, pre-build agreements, property swaps, but no auctions except by the government for land leases.  All land is owned by the government and leased for specified uses.  That's one of the things that makes the Heritage Foundation award to Hong Kong as "the world's freest economy" such a joke.  Arthur Laffer was here last week gushing on the radio about Hong Kong being the free market promised land--totally clueless about the real state of affairs here.  Gov is more intrusive in the economy, by far, than in NY City, for example (I've done the study and written a paper on it--just haven't had time to turn it into a proper academic article yet.)  Milton Friedman spent a year here and accepted all the government propaganda lock, stock and barrel, then built a fairy tale book out of it that Ronald Reagan swallowed whole.  Everyone I know locally who does policy studies and economic development studies in depth in Hong Kong as a professional laughs out loud at how badly Heritage Foundation and Friedman got Hong Kong wrong.

            I'd watch out about the "erudite humor" charge.  As they say, "them's fighten' words".  I grew up in N. Florida during the 50s and 60s, but as a son of a Quebecois mother and father whose relatives fought for the north in the civil war.  Had my share of fights with rednecks because of my "furreigness" and Yankee background.  Fled to California as soon as I got out of college (Stetson University in FL), then went overseas after my first full time teaching job gave me more than my fill of religiously affiliated colleges, and an opening came up in Hong Kong which was a place that fascinated me as a political economist since Milton Friedman's paradise had to work out a relationship with what was in the 1980s "Red China".  We've love it here, but it's time to come home and join the wars for the heart and soul of our country.  When Obamacare passed, we could finally return before age 65 (I've got several pre-exising conditions that would have made health ins. impossible or highly costly to get.  It's nearly free in Hong Kong.)  Again, thanks for the encouragement!  We (my wife and I married 41 years) long to DO something substantial to implement our environmental convictions.  Believe me, living in China convinces you that humans are quickly wrecking the environment (India is quickly getting even worse), and disaster will surely rain down on our children and grand-children if we don't radically change.

            The penalty good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men. Plato Love of money is the root of all evil. Jesus Conclusion: If money rules politics, it will be dominated by evil men lining their pockets, not yours.

            by monkeybrainpolitics on Sat Aug 23, 2014 at 07:27:34 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  Is leasing it out a possibility? You wouldn't (0+ / 0-)

          have the chunk of cash for investment, but if that wasn't critical...
          ( I imagine HK renters would be pretty polite & low maintenance ;-) )

          Information is abundant, wisdom is scarce. ~The Druid.
          ~Ideals aren't goals, they're navigation aids.~

          by FarWestGirl on Sun Aug 24, 2014 at 06:06:19 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Every last bit helps (7+ / 0-)

    All currently unexploited and/or wasted energy, in whatever form, should be harnessed, to the extent possible. EVs harness braking energy, for example. Efficient power plants harness secondary heat. Hell, why not clothes, or at least outerwear and hats? Car tops? Mailboxes? Awnings? Sun umbrellas?

    "Reagan's dead, and he was a lousy president" -- Keith Olbermann 4/22/09

    by kovie on Fri Aug 22, 2014 at 03:41:59 PM PDT

  •  Thanks for pointing to my diary, HoundDog, (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    HoundDog, gerald 1969, Aunt Pat

    did you see that I asked you a question there?

    I really, really would like to know what might be "wrong" with what some people in that video say. And I believe you might have some thoughts about that. No? :)

    We know a hell of a lot, but we understand very little. Manfred Max-Neef

    by mimi on Fri Aug 22, 2014 at 03:52:55 PM PDT

    •  Thanks mimi, oh sorry I missed your question as it (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Aunt Pat

      has been a crazy day. I'm just about to exercise when I get back I'll check it out. Thanks.

      Humor Alert! No statement from this UID is intended to be true, including this one. Intended for recreational purposes only. Unauthorized interpretations may lead to unexpected results. This waiver void where prohibited. Artistic License - 420420

      by HoundDog on Fri Aug 22, 2014 at 05:13:26 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Nice post (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    HoundDog, Aunt Pat

    I am glad to see that people are interested in new technologies that gather power.  Unfortunately, this is quite and old idea dating back to the 70's, and several companies have already tried to commercialize it.

    •  new material science (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      HoundDog, SGA, Aunt Pat

      we can do stuff with materials they didn't dream of
      in the 70's

      •  Plastic that doesn't absorb in the IR and UV (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        HoundDog

        I hope that's one of the things. Any ideas?

        •  surfactants, electron microscopy (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          HoundDog

          molecular modeling,  bigger vacuum furnaces,

          we can do a lot of stuff that just wasnt' ever dreamt of.

          •  This comment seems slippery, and seems (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            ypochris

            to magnify your tendency for sarcassism Pat.

            Hey I just thought of an idea for an idea for a new product myself. A combination of a writing implement with a surface to store impressions left with a trace of some marking material, perhaps carbon nano-particles which. This surface would be portable, possible to fold and place in cabinets where they could be stored and easily found for  convenient retrieval later, where I could then add new observations on the same collection surface.

            This surface would have to achieve some optimal balance between smoothness for easy lateral movements of one's hand across it while making impressions with the recording instrument, yet sufficiently irregular that friction alone would displace enough particles from the carbon emitter that they could become lodged and stored in irregularities of the recording surface.

            Of course the recording surface and recording device would have to be chose to absorb different wavelengths of light such that a contrast would be visible to the naked eye.

            The only part I haven't figured out yet is how to power these devices and especially keep them powered, as ideally one may want to store the images and notes recorded on the recorded surface for lengthy period of time where conventional batteries wouldn't last - month and month even dare I imagine years.

            In a dark cabinet it would be challenging to recharge them with solar devices unless we found super sensitive
            solar collectors that worked in total darkness.

            (humor alert - one doesn't have to be a super-scientist to get snarky. I already have plenty of note on both of you so don't think I'm not watching.  - If I could just find a way to store these notes I could skip this hot dog stand and be on my way to the big time.)

            Humor Alert! No statement from this UID is intended to be true, including this one. Intended for recreational purposes only. Unauthorized interpretations may lead to unexpected results. This waiver void where prohibited. Artistic License - 420420

            by HoundDog on Fri Aug 22, 2014 at 05:51:22 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  The first transmission electron microscope (0+ / 0-)

            to exceed the resolution of light microscopy was built in the 30s. The first scanning EM was also built in the 30s.

  •  Cover all parking areas with solar panels (6+ / 0-)

    providing shade for the cars as well as energy.

    "The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now do you begin to understand me?" ~Orwell, "1984"

    by Lily O Lady on Fri Aug 22, 2014 at 04:14:17 PM PDT

  •  no reason we can't get PV to 80% (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    HoundDog, alypsee1, SGA

    may have to do quad junction, play with nano materials,
     but if we drive panel efficeincy up, the Balance of system costs go down.

    If i can have 10 KW, facing east and west, then the
    it means i can put out 5 KW for 12 hours a day.

    •  Haven't I written about some claiming 40%? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ladybug53

      I'll have go check.

      I used to have the impression I had a near perfect memory for these kinds of things.

      Now that I get specifically tested hundreds of times a day, I'm somewhat humbled. (Not as humble as some may prefer but certainly a lot more so than when I was younger. (Humor alert!).

      In my defense let me say I was recently up to a pace of nearly 100 posts a week just here so I'm not saying I'm completely daffy. Just unable to remember either the maximum current solar efficiency or the major significant information content of post I've written even in this year.

      How sad.  Isn't it sort of interesting that humble and humiliated have the same root? In a poignant wistful sort of way.  

      Humor Alert! No statement from this UID is intended to be true, including this one. Intended for recreational purposes only. Unauthorized interpretations may lead to unexpected results. This waiver void where prohibited. Artistic License - 420420

      by HoundDog on Fri Aug 22, 2014 at 05:20:22 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Hoping this can offset the manufacturing/disposal (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    HoundDog, NoBlueSkies

    waste issues that currently exist:

    Stanford Journal of International Relations (Spring 2010)

    In the rising wave of solar energy, some have begun to sound the alarm on the possibility of hazardous waste escaping into the environment. In response, solar firms have begun planning and forming coalitions to recycle used panels before their materials can leach out, trumpeting their efforts to guarantee life-cycle sustainability. But the focus on dealing with used panels threatens to obscure a more pressing concern from waste in the manufacturing process. With the production of silicon base materials exploding in China – where anecdotal evidence shows a lack of safety regulations – solar firms and regulators must shift their focus to ensuring safe production processes, even if the international situation can be difficult. Until these issues are properly addressed, a shadow of doubt will hang over the true environmental impacts of solar energy.
    Solar_11.2.pdf
    •  Yikes just what we need. Vast solar waste dumps of (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      alx9090

      of used panels. Maybe we could melt them down to their basic elements in nuclear reactors so we could reuse them?

      If we got some fusion reactors we might be able to reconfigure their molecules into baby food or something good and heart warming we could send to the third world countries?  

      (humor alert.)

      Humor Alert! No statement from this UID is intended to be true, including this one. Intended for recreational purposes only. Unauthorized interpretations may lead to unexpected results. This waiver void where prohibited. Artistic License - 420420

      by HoundDog on Fri Aug 22, 2014 at 05:54:57 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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