The Queensland University of Technology recently announced that it has been working with Dyesol to develop an innovative solar cell technology that re-envisions windows as clear, clean energy providers. Professor John Bell has said that these dye-infused solar cells would significantly reduce building energy costs, and could even generate surplus energy to be stored or sold. The development has been touted as the most promising advance in solar cell technology since the invention of the silicon cell.
Modern architecture has a love-hate relationship with windows: they contribute light and levity to interior spaces, yet they are the most frequently cited culprits for thermal energy loss. Traditional approaches to the problem have tended towards increasing insular ability, however this new development would imbue windows with power producing capabilities, actually providing energy instead of leaking it.
Dyesol’s solar cells use an innovative technology called “artificial photosynthesis”, wherein a dye analogous to chlorophyll absorbs light to generate electricity. The panels are composed of “an electrolyte, a layer of titania (a pigment used in white paints and tooth paste), and ruthenium dye sandwiched between glass. Light striking the dye excites electrons which are absorbed by the titania to become an electric current.”
Dye solar cells are cheaper and require less energy to manufacture than silicon cells, since they don’t require expensive raw materials. They also produce electricity more efficiently, even in instances of “shadowing”, where overcast skies and shadows from trees and other buildings can cause a loss in collected power.
These solar windows will offer an enticing new option for skyscrapers and houses looking to break the zero-energy barrier – imagine the net power that a floor-to-ceiling glass-walled skyscraper could produce! Current cells have a rosy tint, although blue, grey and green cells are in the works. Dyesol says the panels will be commercially available over the next few years.