Transparent Solar Cells

Detailed overview of innovation with sample startups and prominent university research

What it is

Transparent solar cells are photovoltaic (PV) cells that can generate electricity from sunlight while still allowing light to pass through. This technology has the potential to transform windows, building facades, and other surfaces into energy generators.

Impact on climate action

Transparent Solar Cells in Distributed Solar PV elevate climate action by integrating solar energy harvesting into building surfaces. By converting sunlight into electricity while allowing light transmission, these cells enhance building energy efficiency, reduce reliance on grid power, and accelerate the adoption of renewable energy, mitigating carbon emissions.

Underlying
Technology

  • Organic Solar Cells (OSCs): OSCs use organic semiconductors as the light-absorbing material. These materials can be designed to be semi-transparent, allowing some light to pass through while still converting sunlight into electricity.
  • Dye-Sensitized Solar Cells (DSSCs): DSSCs use a dye to absorb sunlight and generate electricity. The dye can be designed to be transparent or semi-transparent, allowing for light transmission.
  • Perovskite Solar Cells: Perovskite solar cells can also be made semi-transparent by adjusting the thickness and composition of the perovskite layer.
  • Nanotechnology: Nanotechnology is being used to develop transparent solar cells with improved efficiency and transparency. For example, researchers are developing nanostructured materials that can enhance light absorption and charge transport within transparent solar cells.

TRL : 4-6 (depending on the specific technology)

Prominent Innovation themes

  • High-Transparency Solar Cells: Researchers and startups are developing transparent solar cells with higher transparency levels, making them more suitable for window applications.
  • Improved Efficiency: Innovations in materials and device architectures are improving the efficiency of transparent solar cells, making them more viable for power generation.
  • Scalable Manufacturing Processes: Developing scalable and cost-effective manufacturing processes for transparent solar cells is crucial for their commercialization and widespread adoption.
  • Integration with Building Materials: Researchers are exploring ways to integrate transparent solar cells into various building materials, such as glass and plastics, to create multifunctional building components.

Other Innovation Subthemes

  • Advanced Materials Development
  • Architectural Integration
  • Efficiency Enhancement Techniques
  • Emerging Nanotechnology Applications
  • Building-Integrated Photovoltaics (BIPV)
  • Transparent Solar Windows
  • Organic Semiconductor Innovations
  • Perovskite Solar Cell Advancements
  • Transparent Solar Cell Performance Metrics

Sample Global Startups and Companies

  • Ubiquitous Energy:
    • Technology Enhancement: Ubiquitous Energy specializes in transparent solar cell technology that can be integrated into windows, skylights, and other glass surfaces to generate electricity while maintaining transparency. Their technology, known as ClearView Power™, uses organic photovoltaic materials to capture solar energy across the spectrum, including visible light, while allowing visible light to pass through.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: Ubiquitous Energy stands out for its development of truly transparent solar cells that seamlessly integrate into building materials, enabling solar harvesting without compromising aesthetics or functionality. Their ClearView Power™ technology offers a scalable and cost-effective solution for incorporating solar energy generation into architectural designs.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: Ubiquitous Energy serves architects, building developers, and manufacturers seeking innovative building-integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) solutions. Their transparent solar cells are deployed in commercial buildings, residential properties, and smart cities, providing sustainable energy generation and enhancing building efficiency.
  • Physee:
    • Technology Enhancement: Physee is a Dutch startup known for its PowerWindows technology, which integrates transparent solar cells into window glass to generate electricity from sunlight. Their technology utilizes thin-film solar coatings applied to glass surfaces, allowing natural light to pass through while capturing solar energy to power buildings.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: Physee stands out for its focus on transforming conventional windows into solar energy-generating assets through transparent solar cell integration. Their PowerWindows technology offers a sustainable and aesthetically pleasing solution for energy-efficient buildings, reducing reliance on external power sources and lowering carbon footprint.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: Physee serves the construction industry, commercial real estate developers, and facility managers seeking innovative solutions for sustainable building design and energy efficiency. Their PowerWindows are deployed in office buildings, residential complexes, and commercial properties, providing on-site renewable energy generation and reducing operating costs.
  • SolarWindow Technologies:
    • Technology Enhancement: SolarWindow Technologies develops transparent solar coatings that can be applied to glass surfaces, such as windows and facades, to generate electricity from sunlight. Their technology utilizes organic photovoltaic materials embedded in a liquid coating, which is sprayed onto glass and then converted into transparent solar cells upon drying.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: SolarWindow Technologies stands out for its patented liquid coating technology, which enables the transformation of ordinary glass surfaces into electricity-generating windows. Their solution offers a versatile and cost-effective approach to building-integrated solar energy generation, applicable to a wide range of architectural designs and building types.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: SolarWindow Technologies serves the architectural, construction, and building materials industries, offering transparent solar coatings for windows, curtain walls, and building facades. Their technology enables building owners and developers to harness solar energy while maintaining aesthetic appeal and functionality in commercial, residential, and industrial buildings.

Sample Research At Top-Tier Universities

  1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT):
    • Research Focus: MIT is a leader in research on Transparent Solar Cells, focusing on developing novel materials, device architectures, and fabrication techniques to create transparent photovoltaic technologies that can be integrated into windows, facades, and other transparent surfaces.
    • Uniqueness: Their research involves the synthesis of transparent conducting oxides, perovskite materials, and organic semiconductors optimized for high optical transparency and efficient light harvesting. They also explore innovative deposition methods, such as vapor deposition and solution processing, to fabricate thin-film solar cells with minimal light absorption in the visible spectrum.
    • End-use Applications: The outcomes of their work have applications in building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV), smart windows, and portable electronics. By transforming transparent surfaces into energy-generating assets, MIT’s research enables sustainable energy production, daylighting, and thermal comfort enhancement in architectural and consumer products.
  2. Stanford University:
    • Research Focus: Stanford University conducts pioneering research on Transparent Solar Cells, leveraging its expertise in materials science, photonics, and nanotechnology to develop transparent photovoltaic devices with high efficiency, durability, and optical transparency.
    • Uniqueness: Their research encompasses the design and optimization of transparent electrodes, light management structures, and charge transport layers to maximize light absorption and electron collection while maintaining transparency in the visible spectrum. They also investigate advanced characterization techniques, such as spectroscopy and microscopy, to understand the fundamental mechanisms governing transparent solar cell performance.
    • End-use Applications: The outcomes of their work find applications in building-integrated photovoltaics, automotive glazing, and wearable electronics. By enabling seamless integration of solar energy harvesting into everyday objects and environments, Stanford’s research contributes to sustainable energy generation, urban resilience, and human-centric design.
  3. University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA):
    • Research Focus: UCLA is engaged in innovative research on Transparent Solar Cells, leveraging its expertise in optoelectronics, device physics, and materials engineering to develop transparent photovoltaic technologies suitable for diverse applications.
    • Uniqueness: Their research involves the development of hybrid organic-inorganic materials, nanostructured electrodes, and light management strategies to achieve high transparency and photovoltaic performance in transparent solar cells. They also explore flexible and stretchable substrates, printable electronics, and low-cost manufacturing techniques to enable scalable production of transparent photovoltaic devices.
    • End-use Applications: The outcomes of their work have applications in wearable technology, building-integrated photovoltaics, and portable electronics. By unlocking new opportunities for integrating solar energy harvesting into transparent and flexible substrates, UCLA’s research facilitates the creation of energy-efficient, user-centric products and environments.

commercial_img Commercial Implementation

Transparent solar cells are still in the early stages of commercialization, but several pilot projects and early-stage commercial products are emerging. For example, Ubiquitous Energy has installed transparent solar windows in buildings, while Physee has partnered with companies to integrate their PowerWindow technology into commercial buildings.