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Transparent Solar Cells Could Power Future Gadgets

It seems like the ultimate solution for mobile power needs is the ability to coat the outside of our devices (including the screens) with solar cells, which could then provide all of the electricity needed to power them.

But because you can’t see through conventional photovoltaic cells, a new kind of solar cell would be needed, and one startup is already working on it.

Imagine a solar cell that was transparent and could be built into the screen of an iPad or mobile phone, allowing the device to harvest energy from the sun, while it’s being used. That’s one possible application for a new type of solar technology being developed by Ubiquitous Energy.

The company is working to develop affordable, transparent coatings or films that can convert some of the light from the sun into energy for powering mobile devices, or for placement on windows.

According to MIT, the cells built by Ubiquitous will let visible light through while harvesting energy from the ultraviolet and infrared wavelengths, as opposed to conventional solar panels, which harvest energy from the visible spectrum as well.

The new types of solar cells are manufactured using thin layers of organic materials, which are deposited on glass or film one layer at a time, and the process is said to be compatible with integration into existing thin-film systems. The transparent solar cells aren’t nearly ready for consumers yet, as they only reach about 70% transparency. The company is still working to increase their transparency and effectiveness by optimizing the design and materials and improving the light absorption of the cells.

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