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Transparent Solar Panels: Advancing Solar Energy Technology

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Solar energy is one of the world’s fastest-growing markets in the area of renewable energy due to the unlimited energy resources of the Sun. One of the downsides of solar power is that solar panels require a large amount of space. To overcome this challenge, researchers have been developing new ways to generate electricity from see-through solar glass that may transform the global solar-energy landscape.

Why are scientists focusing on transparent glass? Because nowadays, we see glass everywhere, with most modern buildings and skyscrapers having many huge glass windows. If we can adapt the glass surfaces of these buildings to function as “solar farms” to supply energy for the buildings themselves, we can greatly reduce the need for energy derived from fossil fuels.

Unlike conventional solar panels, which are photovoltaic (PV) panels that absorb sunlight and convert photons into usable energy, transparent solar panels only capture the invisible UV spectrum while letting the visible spectrum pass through. Using this simple concept, teams around the world are developing technologies to create various types of transparent solar panels. The two main types of transparent solar panels include partial and full transparent panels.

The German company Heliatek GmbH is one of the first companies to develop partially transparent solar panels. Onyx Solar, a solar energy company in Ávila, Spain manufactures transparent photovoltaic (PV) glass for buildings. One of them is Ubiquitous Energy, a US-based company established by a group of Michigan State University researchers.

On the other side of the world in Australia a company named ClearVue shows through many of its projects that its transparent solar technology is working. Last but not least on today's program is the fully transparent solar glass developed by a team of Korean researchers led by Professor Joondong Kim of Incheon National University. This breakthrough is the first solar cell that’s fully transparent, thus allowing it to be implemented in electronics with relative ease.

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