MIT Profs. Turn Windows Into Electricity-Generating Solar Panels

By Joe Joyce, WBZ-TV

CAMBRIDGE (CBS) – In the very near future, you may be looking at your windows for much more than a good view. Windows may be turned into mini power generators.

Instead of bulky solar panels, which can cost plenty of money to install, and use a lot of energy to make, professors at MIT have come up with a more cost-effective way to generate electricity which could revolutionize the way we gather the sun’s energy.

WBZ-TV’s Joe Joyce reports

“A typical tinted window for a car or a building has an organic film which absorbs the light. What we do is use that film and make electricity out of it,” says Vladimir Bulovic, Professor of Electrical engineering at MIT.

They have developed a transparent film which will be placed on the windows. You can see through it just like a normal window. The thin invisible film contains heat trapping molecules which harness the energy of the infrared light from the sun and allows the visible light to pass through. 

“When the infrared light hits the solar cell, it creates an excited state. We use that excited state to create voltage and a current and that creates the power.” says Richard Lunt, MIT Researcher.

“At the moment we are using a small amount of the infrared light. If we use more materials which absorb the light, we can improve our efficiency.”

This new technology is still not as efficient as your typical photovoltaic solar panel. The problem is, solar energy still requires a lot of real estate to harvest enough sunlight to generate a significant power supply.

“Solars are fantastic for gathering light, but you need to cover a large area to get enough light to make enough electricity. Give me the area, use the windows, there is plenty of area there,” says Vladimir Bulovic.

The finished product is still about five to ten years away, but someday we may live in a world where windows are solar panels and buildings are much more energy efficient. Once the technology is available, you will be able to install it on the windows at your home. A simple wire connection and voltage controller is all you’d need to harvest the energy.

Researchers are quick to add that this is only a small part of addressing the nation’s energy demands and reducing our greenhouse gas emissions.

  • HomemadeSolarPanels


    Oahu is the small tweaks that creates the maximum dramatic shift….

  • Bulovic Group: Richard Lunt « News from the MIT Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

    […] are links to various articles/videos related to the transparent PV: 1) CBS Boston, including video of Dr. Lunt and Prof. Bulovic describing the new solar window […]

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