Engineers create a new solar material to capture more energy

Engineers and researchers in the USA have developed a new solar glass material that changes from clear to tinted as it heats up and generates electricity.

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The solar material which uses a combination of materials known as perovskites and single-layered carbon nanotubes was created at the US DOE (Department of Energy) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).

As solar power heats the glass, the methylamine molecules are removed, darkening the glass. As the material cools, the molecules are then re-absorbed back into the glass, changing the colour from tinted back to clear.

Researchers at the NREL emphasize that there is a definitive trade-off between a good window and good solar cell, suggesting that an efficient solar cell is available when there is plenty of sunshine and an alternative window when there is a lack of sun.

Scientists at the NREL believe the material will allow an average of 68% of light in the visible section of the solar spectrum to be passed through when the glass is in its transparent state. When the window changes color, a process that takes roughly three minutes, only 3% is allowed to pass through.  Scientists believe this technology could be utilized in building and within vehicles to power batteries, onboard electronics and smartphone devices.

The research team has been investigating the performance of the material by applying it under typical illumination conditions for multiple cycles. The team did notice a deterioration in performance after around twenty cycles due to alterations to the layer. Research is now focusing on improving the longevity and overall reliability of the solar material. The team is also exploring how commercially viable the material could be for converting energy into electricity.

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