If successful, the glass could be incorporated into durable plastics that could act as a replacement for metal or other types of roofs. Researchers say the solar glass will allow daylight to enter buildings while also generating electricity.
The new, transparent solar panel has been designed to concentrate light from a large area to a small area on the sides of the window, where the solar panels are placed, with the aim of reducing the number of solar panels needed and so reducing cost.
It is hoped that the product will be refined and brought to the market within the next decade.
Professor Hendrik Swart, senior professor in the Department of Physics at the University of the Free State said: “An innovation like this which can help to replace traditional means of carbon-based fuel for power generation in our daily lives would be hugely welcome.
“The idea is to develop glass that is transparent to visible light, just like the glass you find in the windows of buildings, motor vehicles and mobile electronic devices. However, by incorporating the right phosphor materials inside the glass, the light from the sun that is invisible to the human eye (ultraviolet and infrared light) can be collected, converted and concentrated to the sides of the glass panel where solar panels can be mounted.
“This invisible light can then be used to generate electricity to power buildings, vehicles and electronic devices. The goal is therefore to create a type of transparent solar panel.”
Hendrick also revealed that the technology can be implemented in other electricity-powered applications: “The technology is also good news for the 4.7 billion cell phone users in the world, as it can be implemented in the screens of cell phones, where the sun or the ambient light of a room can be used to power the device without affecting its appearance,” he said.