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Transparent solar panels: The future of solar energy?

Transparent solar panels: The future of solar energy?

Energy is the pulse of our day-to-day life and how we create and use it is changing rapidly. One thing is certain, to limit global warming we need to move away from fossil fuels altogether and embrace sustainable energy sources. Solar power technologies have been developing for decades, and modern solar power could now become a viable alternative to fossil fuels, but it doesn’t come without its flaws. Solar panels can only be placed at certain angles on buildings, significantly reducing the amount that can be installed in towns and cities. There are also concerns that solar farms can affect biodiversity and farmland and natural habitats need to be safeguarded. But what if these limitations in built up areas were removed? Scientists have been developing transparent solar panels that could be the answer to these issues... 

What is transparent solar energy? 

Transparent solar is a cutting-edge technology that gathers and uses light energy through windows or any glass surface regardless of the angle. This technology has the potential to be a game-changer in terms of broadening the scope of solar energy. 

Researchers have been experimenting with different methods of transparent solar technology, however, the majority work more as a transparent solar concentrator. This means they absorb specific UV and infrared light wavelengths that aren’t visible to the naked eye and transform them into energy capable of powering electronics. This is known as photovoltaic glass and is manufactured to provide a ranging level of transparency. 

In 2014, a team of researchers at Michigan State University (MSU) developed an entirely transparent solar concentrator which could convert almost any glass sheet or window into a PV cell. By 2020, scientists in the US and Europe have achieved 100% transparency levels for solar glass, bringing the possibility of efficient solar power closer. 

Benefits and obstacles of transparent solar energy 

Transparent solar panels are incredibly important as glass is more or less everywhere. Ranging from the screen of our phones to skyscrapers in cities, it’s estimated that there are between 5 to 7 billion square metres of glass in the US alone. Imagine the sheer amount of energy that could be generated if we can tap into that. Cities would become sustainable and self-sufficient with the energy needed for buildings generated by the buildings themselves! 

Transparent solar technologies are already popping up around the world. The Copenhagen International School’s design uses 12,000 hued but clear solar panels all over the building, producing 200 MWh of energy annually – more than half of the energy the building consumes. In another example, 100-square-feet transparent solar glass panels were installed above the entryway to the Biomedical and Physical Sciences Building on the campus of Michigan State University. They generate enough electricity to power the lighting in its atrium. 

However, more research and development needs to be done as there are some significant obstacles. Before the technology can be scaled up, scientists need to improve its efficiency as there is currently an efficiency/transparency trade off. The more transparent a solar panel is, the less efficient it is in generating energy. On the other side of this, the more transparent a panel is, the more panels can be installed by replacing the glass on buildings. Arguably, a similar amount of solar energy could be generated as although the panels would be less efficient, there would be more of them than traditional panels, balancing out the scales. 

Conclusion

Transparent solar panels have the power to revolutionise solar energy globally. However, there is still a long way to go before the technology can be up scaled and reach its full potential. Scientists need to improve the panels efficiency and solve the issue of transparency/efficiency trade off. Once this issue has been resolved the door to fully sustainable and self-sufficient cities in terms of energy production and usage can be opened. 

When developing new technologies, scientist, researchers and innovators need to gain an understanding of the patent landscape in order to focus their R&D efforts and maximise their return on investment. Minesoft’s suite of global patent information solutions enable IP and R&D professionals to harness the power of patent data. From patent searching and analytics to alerting systems, we have the services to help support your team! Contact us today or visit our website to find out more about our available solutions. 

air pollution
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Innovations helping to tackle air pollution

Innovations helping to tackle air pollution

 

In 2019, the United Nations General Assembly designated the 7th of September as the International Day of Clean Air for blue skies. The aim is to stress the importance of and urgent need to raise public awareness and to promote and facilitate actions to improve air quality. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) 99% of the world’s population is now breathing polluted air, 7 million people die each year due to air pollution and it is one of the main avoidable causes of death and disease globally. To tackle this, innovators have been developing technologies to help improve the air we breathe. More…

plant-based food
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Top plant-based food innovations

Top plant-based food innovations

 

With the rise of veganism and evidence that meat and animal products significantly contribute to CO2 emissions, consumers are demanding more and more plant-based products. Plant-based food innovations have exploded in recent years, diversifying the range of products already available, improving their quality and providing consumers with more choice. In this infographic we explore some of the top plant-based innovations already available to consumers and those that are still under development. You can view the relevant patents mentioned in PatBase by clicking here. More…

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Can patents help save the environment?

Can patents help save the environment?

 

Ever since 1421 when the very first patent was recorded in Florence, patents and their protected inventions have helped shape the modern world we live in today. Patents protect inventions, granting their owners exclusive rights over them for a period of time and allowing them to reap financial rewards. They have supported technological and economical advancements, as well as helping to solve problems through innovation. More…

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Green hydrogen: the future of energy?

Green hydrogen: the future of energy?

 

Modern society relies heavily on electricity and requires an increasing number of watts to function. The International Energy Agency (IEA) predicted in their 2019 report that global energy demand will increase between 25% and 30% by 2040. Considering how reliant we are on oil and coal, this would increase CO2 emissions thus exacerbating climate change. With this in mind, innovators are turning their attention to more sustainable and environmentally friendly solutions such as green hydrogen. The new German Ambassador to the UK, Miguel Berger, who was previously the State Secretary of the Federal Foreign Office in Berlin, stated at the Hydrogen for Life 2022 conference that it is crucial we speed up the efficiency of renewable energy, including hydrogen in order to move away from fossil fuels. He also spoke about the potential for Germany and the UK to work together in this area to develop and implement new, innovative solutions more quickly. Let’s take a closer look at what green hydrogen is and the different areas of innovation. More…

blockchain
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The blockchain boom: A cause for
celebration or concern?

Since its conception in 2008, blockchain technology has developed consistently over the years. This is especially true in recent years with a record 9,973 global patents related to blockchain filed in the past year, up from 3,810 two years earlier according to new research carried out by law firm Mathys & Squire*. This fast development has raised growing concerns over the sustainability of blockchain technology due to the amount of energy needed to operate the servers, as well as the significant amount of electronic waste (e-waste) generated. The rush to secure new commercial applications of blockchain has pushed R&D in this space, with a particular focus on new uses for non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and attempts to make the technology less carbon intensive. So, what are the environmental concerns that surround blockchain and what can be done to address these? Are there other possible applications for blockchain technology that could help eliminate ethical and sustainability issues in other industries? More…

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What does patent data reveal about
climate change mitigation technology trends?

What does patent data reveal about climate change mitigation technology trends?

Patent data is used by innovators and organisations to better understand a technology landscape, identify interesting areas for innovation and help inform on the commercial viability of an invention. With green technology a hot topic and the consequences of climate change very clear, patent data can reveal some interesting climate change mitigation technology trends, identify areas of growth, as well as areas that aren’t advancing quite so quickly. More…

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Ocean Conservation through
Innovation

Our oceans are vital to humans’ survival, the balance of ecosystems and the future of our planet. For decades, climate change, pollution, and unsustainable fishing has put widespread and severe pressure on oceans and marine life. This in turn has a knock-on effect causing marine fisheries to diminish, with some species being hunted to near extinction, bleaching of coral reefs, rising sea levels, falling pH levels and the proliferation of toxic algae. However, it is not all doom and gloom. Ocean conservation efforts have intensified over recent years with the development and adoption of disruptive technologies to help preserve marine life and reverse or curb these longstanding threats.

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Carbon capture technology:
A solution to climate change?

Carbon capture technology: A solution to climate change?

Climate change and how to achieve net zero as quickly as possible is an issue dominating the planet. Many initiatives to reduce emissions are already in place. However, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reducing emissions alone is not enough to achieve the ambitions of the Paris Agreement and limit future temperature increases to 1.5 degrees. It is also necessary to install technologies capable of removing carbon emissions from the atmosphere. Carbon capture technologies such as Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) and Direct Air Capture (DAC) may be able to do exactly that.

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