What if future solar cells can capture and store solar energy at the same time? Researchers at Kogakuin University in Japan strive to do just. Their translucent lithium-ion battery-solar panel recharges itself when exposed to sunlight, fusing battery storage with renewable energy generation. This elegant design could finally trump the problem of securing effective and affordable storage.
The battery and panel hybrid is a long time in the making for the researchers at Kogakuin. Four years ago, the team unveiled a similarly looking translucent battery, which was connected to a storage device. In order to make the leap, researchers made small modifications to the machine’s material makeup. When the hybrid device is exposed to sunlight, the panel tints to allow for energy capture. After the battery is fully charged, the panel becomes clear again. Its translucence is due to the thinness of the battery, which is only 80 to 90 nanometers thick.
The researchers envision the battery-solar panel as the material used to create smart windows, which generate and store electricity. The invention could also be incorporated into screens on electronic devices. As long as the sun shines, you would never have to worry about charging your phone again. Or you could bring a TV into a meadow and watch Broad City in the great outdoors. The possibilities are endless.
Kogakuin researchers are not alone in their quest to refine and democratize renewable energy. Tesla is investing heavily in battery storage technology, which could one day soon allow most homes to affordably live off the grid. Other developments include super-thin solar panels printed like paper, which could bring solar power to billions of people, and lithium battery advances that could dramatically lower the price of energy. These innovations are part of a broad industrial revolution that is bringing the renewable future ever closer.
Images via Kogakuin University