The semi-transparent solar modules combine the use of a special organic dye (similar to the one developed by scientists in New Zealand) and nanoparticles that allow for the conversion of sunlight into electricity. The current prototypes are amber in color, but it is possible to produce them in other ones; in addition, images or text can be directly printed on them. While they may be easier to integrate into building designs, their main drawback - compared to conventional silicon-based cells - is their low efficiency: only about 4%.The electricity-producing film within the solar module is created with nanoparticles; it is inserted between two glass panes using a screen-printing technique and kept sealed in with glass frit. Initial fatigue tests have demonstrated that the cells can endure several thousand hours of wear and tear.
Though still in its early stages, the solar module, developed by researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE in collaboration with several industry partners, will be presented this year in Tokyo at the annual Nanotech 2008 trade fair.
Image courtesy of Fraunhofer ISE