Transparent Solar Panels | Michigan State University

Transparent Solar Panels | Michigan State University

October 13, 2019 100 By Stanley Isaacs


– I’m here on the water front in Detroit and I’m talking about solar power. When you think of
traditional solar panels, you think of those large black squares that are mounted on rooftops or in fields. But what if we were able to
start getting our solar panels to look like this? An entire skyscraper dedicated
to harvesting solar energy. A Michigan State professor is
making that happen right now. (upbeat music) So I’m sitting here with Professor Lunt, a professor in the college of engineering? – Correct, I’m a professor
of chemical engineering and material science. When I was growing up, I grew up just outside of Boston and I began to appreciate
the amount of area there is in not only glass but just
tall buildings in general. And there’s often more area
in the vertical footprint than there is in the rooftop footprint. One of our thoughts was if
we could turn these areas into solar harvesting surfaces, we could really make a big impact. This is a transparent,
luminescent solar concentrator. The way that this works is it’s gonna capture the
parts of the solar spectrum that you can’t see with your eye. So it’s gonna capture the ultraviolet and the infrared parts
of the solar spectrum and that glowing infrared light gets guided to the edge of the glass where we mount very thin
strips of solar cells. And that’s gonna convert
that energy into electricity. So now we are in the molecular and organic
exotonics laboratory. And so this is a fully assembled prototype of this type of technology. So I guess what we can do at this point is just hook this up and show
you kind of how it works. So what I’m gonna do now is just hook up the solar concentrator and we’re gonna shine the
light onto the active layer and the fan moves. – [Anthony] Generating power? – [Professor Lunt] That’s right. – [Anthony] So with much bigger windows, with the actual power
and intensity of a sun. – [Professor Lunt] That’s right. – [Anthony] You’re
gonna be able to do more than just move a little fan. – That’s right. We’re gonna be able to power the building, any building. It can start to be a
good solar collector now. So we can turn our solar
farms into solar cities. – When you’re looking
at a building like this, if we implemented your technology on this, how would this building look different? – So the building would
look exactly the same. – It’d just be normal windows. – That’s right.
– That’s the benefit, right? – That’s right and whether you’re talking
about the windows or the siding, the building will look exactly how you want the building to look and you won’t even know that the solar technology is even there. – [Anthony] Is this something
that can be retrofit onto old buildings? – Yeah that’s actually
a very important part of this technology is we actually have the ability
to not only integrate it during the window manufacturing process but we can also make laminates where we can retrofit from
the inside of the building. And so this type of technology allows us to really think
about new construction as well as existing construction but also other applications such as mobile electronics, automobiles, green houses. So the applications are almost endless. We have glass up there, we have glass down here. Because we’ve developed this
really scalable process, this really scalable technology, I think we can start to see this within a couple years in products. So that’s our goal, see products in a variety of areas within the next couple years. – So this isn’t some far
flung thing, this is– – This is happening now, yeah.