Dye-ing for efficient solar power

by Mary Caperton Morton
Thursday, January 5, 2012

Special dyes painted onto glass window panes gather light and transport it to solar cells lining the edges of the panes, increasing solar energy efficiency. Donna Coveney

Solar energy is an abundant resource, but so far, solar panels have tended to be relatively expensive and less efficient than desired. Now researchers at MIT in Cambridge, Mass., may have solved both those problems by inventing a new inexpensive dye that works as a “solar concentrator” when painted on ordinary window panes. The dye gathers light energy over the entire surface of the window, then transports it out to the edge of the pane to a line of energy-collecting solar cells. This system reduces cost as solar cells are needed only around the edges of a pane (as opposed to a whole panel of cells), and early tests show the dyes may increase efficiency by as much as 50 percent, as the team, led by MIT professor Marc A. Baldo, reported July 11 in Nature.

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