This is going to sound really sad, but I was watching an episode an episode of ‘Smallville’ and Lexcorp (or whatever it was called, I wasn’t watching that closely) had a tower building covered in windows that were also Solar Panels… Just how feasible is that I thought?
Scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Boston are working on “ the solar concentrator”. Light is gathered over the windows large area and gathered, or concentrated, at the edges. The lights energy can then be collected by the solar cells at the edges of a pane of glass
A film of organic molecules is coated on to glass window panes or other surfaces, for that matter, exposed to the sun. This film will allow the light to pass straight through the window but take the energy to solar cells at the edge.
Another other option in 10years of development is the Gratzel Cell
In Silicon Cells, the sun generates electric charges in the silicon and also transports and separates the positive and negative charged carriers. To do this you need a positively doped and negatively doped layers of silicon and for maximum efficiency you need very, very pure silicon… The reason you can’t make silicon solar panel windows is you can’t make silicon clear.
The Gratzel Cell is close to what photosynthesis does in green leaves. The charges are generated by dye molecules and the transportation and separation is taken place by other constituents. The colour of the panel can be varied by selecting the colour of the dye.. by picking a near infra-red dye it will let the light though and appear colourless… ergo a window.
Of course, buildings are not just made of Glass… they have internal walls, curtains, awnings etc, in fact other surfaces that are exposed to the sun. Internal surfaces, with the new bred of photo sensitive materials, can generate electricity from low light levels and even from electric lights or candles at night.
Konarka Technologies, Inc. based in the USA are focused on manufacturing organic thin-film photovoltaics, capable of being put on any surface even flexible ones—the only company, to date, with an organic thin film in production.
Konarka Technologies and Air Products have also just received a grant from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to develop a transparent, flexible solar panel that could be placed on a piece of glass or integrated into a window.
Of course at Taipei’s International Optoelectronics Week the Chinese company Chin Hua were demonstrating the slightly foggy windows shown in the picture that would generate 2w. The foggier the haze, the greater is the generation of electricity.
So buildings that generate their own power might be more scientific fact than fiction.