Covalent Solar rendering

The innovators of this new technology, if they get it into production, may just be the green building revolutionaries of tomorrow.  At the end of the week, MIT engineers published research of new technology showing that the sun’s energy could be harvested from a large area, such as a window, and concentrated at the edges by solar cells.  With this so-called luminescent solar concentrator, the potential for low-cost electricity seems almost within reach.  Technically, here’s how it works: 

"The MIT solar concentrator involves a mixture of two or more dyes that is essentially painted onto a pane of glass or plastic. The dyes work together to absorb light across a range of wavelengths, which is then re-emitted at a different wavelength and transported across the pane to waiting solar cells at the edges."

The result is reduced light transport loss and about 10x more power converted by the solar cell. 

The MIT team led by Marc A. Baldo estimates that their technology increases the power obtained from solar cells by a factor of over 40.  Plus, it doesn’t require tracking equipment or cooling systems, resulting in a low-cost concentrator.

Going Commercial
To commercialize the technology, Covalent Solar, a company being spun out of MIT by three of its inventors (Michael Currie, Jon Mapel, and Shalom Goffri), will be working towards creating a more stable product for purchasers.  The team estimates that their new ideas can be implemented within three years.  See MIT Technology Review for a video of the prototype.

Colorful Windows?
I don’t want to speculate, but I’m wondering about light transmission if the technology is applied to windows in the built environment.  I’m sure more media information will clarify how the technology works in this context, but will light coming through be tinted as red, yellow, blue, green, or some other color?  Or will the dyes act like window tinting on a car, beneficial and unnoticeable to the occupants?  We’ll keep our eyes on the technology and keep you posted …

solar cells small

[+] Fact sheet: MIT’s solar concentrators
[+] MIT opens new ‘window’ on solar energy
[$] High-efficiency Organic Solar Concentrators for Photovoltaics

Image credits: Donna Coveney and Nicolle Rager Fuller