Washington, July 11 : Experts at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have achieved a major breakthrough in developing an affordable method to turn ordinary glass into a high-tech solar concentrator.
The researchers believe that their technology, which uses dye-coated glass to collect and channel photons otherwise lost from a solar panel's surface, may one day enable an office building to draw energy from its tinted windows as well as its roof.
"We think this is a practical technology for reducing the cost of solar power," electrical engineer Marc Baldo says in a research article in the journal Science.
The report reveals that the researchers coated glass panels with layers of two or more light-capturing dyes.
The dyes absorbed incoming light and re-emitted the energy into the glass, which served as a conduit to channel the light to solar cells along the panels' edges.
The dyes could vary from bright colours to chemicals that were mostly transparent to visible light.
Given the thinness of the edges of the glass panels, say the researchers, far less semiconductor material is needed to collect the light energy and convert that energy into electricity.
"Solar cells generate at least ten times more power when attached to the concentrator," says Baldo.
He even says that the starting materials are affordable, relatively easy to scale up beyond a laboratory setting, and easy to retrofit to existing solar panels.
All these features may help the technology find its way to the marketplace within three years, he reckons.