Clear solar panels could turn windows (and smart phones) into power plants.

International Business Times reveals the bright future (from an economic standpoint, at least) of the nascent companies making clear solar panels:

The “transparent luminescent solar concentrator” module joins a handful of other fledgling see-through solar products that scientists hope one day to bring to market. The idea is to use existing surfaces to generate power, rather than install large arrays of panels on the ground or on rooftops.

“It opens a lot of area to deploy solar energy in a non-intrusive way,” Richard Lunt of Michigan State’s College of Engineering said in a statement this week. “It can be used on tall buildings with lots of windows or any kind of mobile device that demand high aesthetic quality, like a phone or e-reader.” Lunt said his ultimate aim is to make a device so transparent that consumers don’t even know it’s there.

The module, which now looks like a clear glass drink coaster, uses small organic molecules developed by Lunt and his research team to absorb nonvisible wavelengths of sunlight. Researchers can tune the materials to pick up just the ultraviolet and near infrared waves, which then “glow” at another wavelength in the infrared region of the electromagnetic spectrum, Lunt explained. The glowing infrared light is then guided to the edge of the plastic module, where the wavelengths are converted into electricity by thin strips of solar photovoltaic cells.

Transparent solar technologies are also in the works at research hubs including at Oxford University in England, where scientists are developing a product that could be used in windows. At team at the University of California at Los Angeles has developed a transparent film that can be affixed to buildings, car sunroofs and tablets to generate electricity.

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