There have been plenty of shouts and rumors about see-through solar glass, but until now the technology had not reached the point where anyone was ready to begin commercial development. That appears to have changed, as New Energy Technologies, Inc., of Maryland, recently announced that researchers working on its proprietary SolarWindow technology have achieved a series of breakthroughs that will allow the company to unveil a working prototype of the world’s first-ever glass window capable of generating electricity. The University of South Florida Research Foundation has granted New Energy an exclusive, worldwide license for technologies to enable commercial development of the product.
Until now, the limiting factors appear to have been the need for metals and various expensive processes that block visibility and prevent light from passing through glass surfaces. New Energy see-through solar glass is made possible by the world’s smallest working organic solar cells, a nanotechnology application developed by Dr. Xiaomei Jiang at the University of South Florida. Unlike conventional solar energy systems, New Energy’s solar cells are capable of generating electricity from both natural and artificial light sources; according to the company, they outperform today’s commercial solar and thin-film technologies by as much as 10-fold.
Technical hurdles surpassed in recent months by New Energy’s researchers include testing of these nanotech solar cells, measuring less than ¼ the size of a grain of rice, which generate electricity from both natural and artificial light sources; development of a patent-pending process to spray SolarWindow coatings onto see-through glass using commercially available technologies; and the ability to spray SolarWindow coatings onto glass at room temperature, eliminating expensive high-temperature or high-vacuum production methods commonly used by current solar manufacturers.
“We’re always keen to see innovations in our laboratories turn into meaningful commercial products,” stated Valerie McDevitt, Assistant Vice President for Research, Division of Patents and Licensing, University of South Florida, in a statement. “We very much look forward to the commercial development of New Energy’s SolarWindow technology, which, if successful, could literally transform the way in which we view the use of solar energy for our homes, offices, and commercial buildings.”