Engineers from the University of Michigan and some other institutions have teamed up to develop a new type of solar panel. This innovation will see to it that the solar panels are so transparent that they can be used as window panes or door fittings in homes and office spaces. Not only that, the solar panels will be so efficient and durable that they have been estimated to last for up to 30 years.
The team is so full of confidence that in light of this innovation, they are contemplating even coming up with an entire building structure that will be completely covered by solar panels. As great as this idea sounds, that an entire building can become a power plant/generator, it still begs some questions.
Say, for instance, a structure is built now for commercial purposes or whatever reason; the structure would most likely continue to exist, even long after a period of 30 years. But seeing as the transparent solar panels will have a lifespan of 30 years, what then happens to the building made using these panels?
We all know that at the moment, the most efficient solar panels are being made from silicon. However, the team of engineers opted for more window-friendly, carbon-based materials instead of using silicon. This is because silicon is not transparent, thereby defeating one of the main aims of the innovation.
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A great number of things have been put into consideration in the course of this research and innovation project. During the research, the engineers found out that without finding a way to protect the material in the panel that converts sunlight to electricity, efficiency usually reduces to below 40 percent of the initial value in a matter of just 3 months after being exposed to the sun. The engineers then made a detailed study of this degradation to determine the cause, and then profer a solution design.
They came up with blocking ultraviolet light by adding an additional zinc oxide layer to the side of the glass that would be facing the sun. They also found a way to squeeze in a thinner layer of zinc oxide to the part directly opposite the region of the cell that absorbs light.
As of the time of writing this report, the transparency of the solar panel module is already up at 40 percent, but the team believes they can improve on that by getting it to 60 percent transparency in the near future.
Speaking about the cost of production, the team believes that the manufacturing costs will be reasonably low and that their transparent solar panels would go on being about 80% efficient even after the projected 30 years is reached.