Solar panel technology is always changing. But now a research team from Michigan State University is trying to change the way we think about solar panels in a major way, by coming up with the world's first fully translucent solar panel. So how does it work, and how will this change the solar industry?
How do these new solar panels work?
Unlike other supposedly translucent solar panels that aren't actually translucent, these new solar panels use a new technology that has drastically changed the way we think about solar energy. The main issue with translucent panels is that for a solar panel to work, it needs to absorb light that passes through it, whereas for the panel to be considered fully translucent, the same light would need to travel through it without being absorbed. So, the team at Michigan State University have turned this on its head and found a workaround. In their new panels, called transparent luminescent solar concentrators, only light that is not visible to the human eye is absorbed. This means that the panels are able to look as if they are fully translucent, like a window, when in actual fact they are still absorbing light that can be turned in to energy.
What might they be used for?
The transparent luminescent solar concentrator panels could be used to replace windows, or other sheets of clear glass, meaning that we would no longer need to have solar panels on our roofs and in our gardens. They could also have many applications in science and medicine, which could revolutionise some procedures and research methods.
When can we expect these panels to be on the market?
Although obviously this new development is incredibly exciting, it's safe to say that translucent solar panels will not be available on the general market any time soon. As these panels are still in the testing and research stage, it is unlikely that they will be available for general sale in the next couple of years. However, what it does show us is that solar panel technology is moving forward, and we should be seeing even more innovations appearing over the coming years.