Tag Archives: infrared light

Finally, A Solar Panel That You Can Actually See Through!

Solar power technology has been advancing rapidly in recent years. The rapidly decreasing cost and increasing efficiency of solar power has set off a solar revolution worldwide.

Germany, which is currently using solar to produce 50% of its total energy, has led the charge, along with the rest of Europe.

Other countries, like India, have made the expansion of solar infrastructure a primary focus.

The growth of solar power in the last 15 years. Click to enlarge

Now, there’s a new advancement which could end up being the tipping point in the solar revolution: a totally transparent solar concentrator.

The “transparent luminescent solar concentrator” can be placed over windows to gather solar power while still allowing people to actually see through the window.

The concentrator, which was designed by a team of researchers from Michigan State University, can also be used on cell phones or pretty much anything with a clear surface.

Other people have tried to design transparent solar concentrators before, but the materials they used were inefficient (in terms of energy  production) and created some pretty obvious tints on the window.

“No one wants to sit behind colored glass… It makes for a very colorful environment, like working in a disco. We take an approach where we actually make the luminescent active layer itself transparent,”

said Robert Lunt, an engineering professor at MSU who led the research.

A close up of the solar concentrator (Photo: Yimu Zhao)
A close up of the solar concentrator (Photo: Yimu Zhao)

This new solar concentrator uses tiny organic molecules that were specifically designed by Lunt and his team to absorb wavelengths of light that are invisible to the naked eye.

“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,”

said Lunt while explaining the process. This infrared light is then directed to the edges of the concentrator, where tiny strips of photovoltaic cells convert it into electricity.

Since the molecules used to capture the energy are specifically designed to not absorb or emit light within the visible spectrum, the concentrator appears to be almost completely transparent to the naked eye.

The electromagnetic spectrum. Click to enlarge

The technology is innovative, functional and versatile. Lunt believes it could ultimately become a huge part of our lives:

“It can be used on tall buildings with lots of windows or any kind of mobile device that demands high aesthetic quality like a phone or e-reader. Ultimately we want to make solar harvesting surfaces that you do not even know are there.”

Read the original story from Science Daily here.

Coming Soon: Night Vision Contact Lenses That Also Monitor Blood Flow!

Night-vision goggles have been around for a long time, but their use is fairly limited in the civilian world because of how bulky they are. But that may be about to change.

A team of researchers from the University of Michigan has been exploring new applications for the new “miracle material” graphene. If you’re unfamiliar with it, here’s a quick rundown of the material that I posted on The Higher Learning back in January.

The main reason why night-vision goggles have remained so large over the years is that they require bulky cooling equipment to prevent the detectors from sensing their own heat radiation. With graphene, however, this could be possible using only a few layers of the material (which is only one atom thick).

Even some of the smallest, most-advanced night-vision goggles are quite bulky (Image: Armed Forces International)
Even some of the smallest, most-advanced night-vision goggles are quite bulky (Image: Armed Forces International)

Here’s the lead researcher, Zhaohui Zhong, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at Michigan:

“We can make the entire design super-thin. It can be stacked on a contact lens or integrated with a cell phone.”

But Zhong thinks that the extremely light-sensitive graphene lenses could have even more applications than just night-vision. The high sensitivity of the graphene sensors could allow doctors to monitor a patient’s blood flow without having to move them or use any scanning machines, and could also allow art historians to examine layers of paint below the surface layer.

Read the full story from The Independent here.