Skip to main content

Transparent solar panels are the photovoltaics of the future

First of its kind transparent solar panel
If you’re searching for the solar panel of the future, why not consider those created by the aptly-named SolarWindow Technologies, which transform regular windows into photovoltaics, capable of producing 50 times greater electrical energy than rooftop panels, when modeled for a 50-story building.

“Just pick up your cell phone, look at the face without any power or image, and you’ll see a pretty good example of what today’s thin film looks like,” John Conklin, CEO of SolarWindow, told Digital Trends. “It’s heavy, it’s too dark to see through, and most thin-film is not flexible. This type of technology isn’t the type to build skyscraper windows.”

He, on the other hand, had a different idea.

This is where SolarWindow comes into play. As the term “regular windows” suggests, users don’t have to replace the existing windows in their home, but need only treat them with a special process developed by the company.

Prime Day Focus
Roborock Prime Day shopping guide: Lots of options, which is right for you?
Is the Bluetti AC200L the best power station for camper vans?
These Razer Blade Prime Day deals really pack a punch [in gaming power]
Tiny projector, epic 4K cinema: Watch movies anywhere with LG CineBeam Q

“We apply liquid coatings to glass and plastic surfaces at ambient pressure, and dry these coatings at low temperature to produce transparent films,” Conklin continued. “We repeat these processes, and then collectively these coatings — and thus the glass and plastic surfaces — generate electricity.”

Of these coatings, the most important is the so-called “Active Layer,” through which electricity is generated by the absorption of light, and the transparent conductors, which allow the electricity to be extracted. “[The] coatings are primarily organic, primarily from carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, and oxygen,” Conklin said. “We are constantly refining each of the layers to improve on the power we’re able to extract from these coatings and enhance their manufacturability.”

In addition to buildings, Conklin notes that some of the possible applications of this tech include the automotive industry, where a sunroof, windscreen or even side view mirrors could be turned into solar panels. There are also aerospace and military use-cases, and even the possibility of a “flexible fabric” being developed.

In all, it’s an exciting area to be working in, with some impressive math on its side. What kind of math? By the company’s estimates, a 50-story building with solar windows could generate around 1.3GWh every twelve months. For those keeping track, that’s enough energy to power around 130 homes for an entire year.

Luke Dormehl
I'm a UK-based tech writer covering Cool Tech at Digital Trends. I've also written for Fast Company, Wired, the Guardian…
Major UI, UX overhaul planned for future Windows 11 update
The display of the Surface Pro 8.

Microsoft is reportedly working on launching a number of new Windows 11 features that could soon roll out to the public. The features that are being planned include new gestures, support for app folders in the Start menu, a new method of snapping windows to enable more seamless multitasking, and the support of new gestures to help elevate the experience of Windows 11 on tablets. Though a specific release date is not yet known, it's anticipated that some of these features could arrive on the next major Windows release, also known as Sun Valley 2, while a few enhancements could be part of the current Windows 11 update.

The company has not confirmed any of the features referenced, and the report of the new features comes by way of technology publication Windows Central, which reported that the company is preparing the features initially for a beta build targeting Windows Insiders testers on the Dev Channel. The publication cited a few contacts for its report, noting that it was told that Microsoft had spent the previous week working on a number of new features for Windows 11. Report of the new changes follows on the heels of a recent Windows 11 preview release.

Read more
Are solar panels recyclable?
Solar panels sit hillside.

One of the great debates when it comes to solar panels is what happens at the end of their life cycle. While many solar panels will last over 20 years, there are still considerations to be made for what happens to them when they are no longer viable. Building up renewable energy resources is absolutely necessary to combat climate change, but we also have to be wary of counteracting that good with excessive e-waste.
What are solar panels made of?

Let's start at the beginning of a solar panel's life. Solar panels are made primarily of glass, a metal frame, silicon cells, and wiring made of silver and copper. The silicon cells can be arrayed in monocrystalline or polycrystalline formats. Monocrystalline silicon is more efficient, as molecules are arranged in a single unified mesh. This results in an even, dark color. Polycrystalline silicon is cheaper since it's amalgamating several crystals. These panels typically appear blue. The downside here is that polycrystalline solar panels are less efficient. Monocrystalline panels are 15% to 20% efficient, while polycrystalline panels are 13% to 16% efficient. This article digs into the chemical and component breakdown of solar panels.
How bad are solar panel materials for the environment?
If we're on a quest to minimize e-waste, we need to know the environmental cost of leaving these materials in landfills, and the cost of producing them from virgin materials.

Read more
4 simple pieces of tech that helped me run my first marathon
Garmin Forerunner 955 Solar displaying pace information.

The fitness world is littered with opportunities to buy tech aimed at enhancing your physical performance. No matter your sport of choice or personal goals, there's a deep rabbit hole you can go down. It'll cost plenty of money, but the gains can be marginal -- and can honestly just be a distraction from what you should actually be focused on. Running is certainly susceptible to this.

A few months ago, I ran my first-ever marathon. It was an incredible accomplishment I had no idea I'd ever be able to reach, and it's now going to be the first of many I run in my lifetime. And despite my deep-rooted history in tech, and the endless opportunities for being baited into gearing myself up with every last product to help me get through the marathon, I went with a rather simple approach.

Read more