Could windows soon be capable of generating electricity?

Rendering of Panasonic’s perovskite ‘power-generating glass’ for buildings. — AFP Relaxnews

A new generation of photovoltaic panels could arrive in a few years’ time, revolutionising the building industry. These new-style solar panels would be large and transparent enough to act as windows. In other words, the panels would no longer need to be installed on roofs, as is the case today.

This technology is currently being tested in Japan by Panasonic. The first trial is taking place in Fujisawa, in a recently-built model home fitted with the firm’s “power-generating glass”. The test, which runs until the end of November 2024, is designed to verify the technology's long-term durability and conversion efficiency of around 20%.

The solar cells used by Panasonic are made from perovskite, with a high concentration of titanium. Such cells are often described as the future of photovoltaic panels. They offer numerous advantages over traditional solar cells. As well as being less expensive to manufacture, they have a high light absorption capacity.

Recent research by scientists at Northwestern University in the US reports a record conversion efficiency of 25.1%. Note that the efficiency of a solar panel corresponds to the amount of light energy converted into electricity, in relation to the total amount of energy entering the system.

On paper, this technology has every chance of success, especially if the same perovskite cells can be used in the manufacture of solar glass. It would therefore be possible to manufacture a product combining the advantages of traditional glass with the ability to generate electricity. This could find use in many buildings, from houses to office blocks. The panels could then be used to auto-generate electricity, potentially driving down heating or air-conditioning costs, depending on the season.

But the manufacture of these cells remains unstable on a large scale. Hence, Panasonic's trial, which has already achieved an efficiency comparable to that of crystalline silicon cells on a module measuring over 800 sq cm (17.5%).Tomorrow's solar panels will boost efficiency to yield more electricity. – AFP Relaxnews

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