These colorful windows capture energy from indoor and outdoor light

What if we could build solar panels that aren’t an addition on top of buildings, but an actual part of the structural construction of homes and offices? This is the idea behind luminescent solar concentrators developed by researchers from Rice University. 

The technology transforms conventional windows into energy-capturing tools by placing a conjugated polymer between two clear acrylic panels. The windows absorb light from a specific wavelength and channel this energy to solar cells around the edge of the window. 

Visually, the windows are colorful panels that resemble stained glass. According to researchers, they’re not quite as efficient as traditional solar panels, but they could be more easily integrated into new construction projects and still significantly contribute to a household’s energy needs. They are also working to create clear prototypes of the panels for those who do not want colorful windows. 

Additionally, the panels can capture solar light from the outdoors and LED light from the indoors for increased intake and hours of energy generation. In fact, they’re just as efficient in generating light from LEDs indoors as solar rays, meaning they could provide energy even during nighttime hours. 

Finding ways to integrate renewable energy technology into new construction is key for promoting the widespread adoption of green energy systems. This new technology would allow solar capture to be installed in buildings with no additional work and make solar capture systems more visually appealing in modern design. 

Image source: Researcher Yilin Li

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