Imagine something that's made of glass: your home's windows, a car's windshield, the screen on your smartphone. Now imagine that glass surface acting as a power generator. That could be a reality one day soon, thanks to a new transparent solar cell developed by researchers at UCLA.
Everything about the clear solar cell is nearly transparent, from its infared-absorbing plastic to the silver nano wire that allows it to carry a charge. As you can see above, it's pretty tough to see the difference between it and regular ol' glass — it's about 70 percent see-through. The downside? It's also only about 30 percent as efficient as current solar cells.
Don't lose hope, though. This from Deborah Netburn of the Los Angeles Times:
The good news is that the process is very economical, and the material can be fabricated as a liquid that can be sprayed on a surface, much in the same way that car factories spray paint onto automobiles.
As for when you can expect it, UCLA professor Yang Yang, who leads the team producing the transparent solar cell and also helms the Nano Renewable Energy Center at California NanoSystems Institute — which sounds like a fun place to hang out — said that the technology could see the light of day in as little as five years, with widespread use in a decade.
"I don't have the patience to wait much longer," Yang told the Times. "I'd like to say in five years we'll have something on a small scale, and then in 10 years it will be popular."