Most people are aware that solar energy is rapidly gaining ground on other traditional sources of energy, and that it has some definite advantages over them. For instance, solar power is a clean and renewable source of unlimited energy that does not depend on the depletion of earth’s natural resources, nor does it harm the environment in any way as its being produced. Advances in solar energy technology are not limited to rooftop collectors or ground-based panels, but have now spread into the area of specially developed windows. These windows can efficiently collect energy from the sun’s rays through the use of embedded silicon nanoparticles called luminescent solar concentrators (LSC’s), and the technology which makes them possible will be commercially available in the very near future.
How it works
These specially developed windows are called photovoltaic windows, and they have the capability of collecting significant amounts of energy from the sun, while having no impact on the aesthetic appeal of a building, since the actual photovoltaic cells are discreetly hidden within the window frame. Sunlight shining through the surface of windows like these can be trapped inside and concentrated, then dispersed to the window’s edges, where tiny solar cells are embedded for the purpose of capturing the absorbed energy. The key component of this space-age technology are the silicon nanoparticles.
In its natural state, silicon does not give off light, but it does absorb light at different wavelengths. In order to use silicon in solar energy technology, it must be reduced down to 1/10000 the size of a human hair, at which point it takes on entirely different properties. At this nanoparticle size, silicon becomes an efficient emitter of light, but does not absorb its own luminescence, and it’s this critical feature which makes it the perfect medium for usage in LSC technology.
This also creates an almost perfect compatibility with the normal process used by industry for the generation of polymer LSC’s, so that an efficient photovoltaic window can be produced. The actual process of creating silicon nanoparticles was developed at the University of Minnesota more than a decade ago, and the institution still holds a patent on that technique.
By combining the research work done at the University of Minnesota with other research that was already underway in Italy, the LSC’s could be embedded in polymers which could then be used in the form of a thin plastic sheet, or a coating which could be applied to the window. The partnership between these two teams is what really made the possibility of solar energy-collecting windows a reality. With one team having the expertise to create the silicon nanoparticles, and the other team providing the knowledge and experience with luminescent concentrator fabrication, the resulting solar power technology became a reality.
More on solar energy
For more information on solar power for your business or residence, contact the Solar Energy Exchange of Southern California, and find out how this remarkable and efficient energy source can be cleanly used in both commercial and residential applications.