Transparent coating transforms smartphone into a solar panel

February 9, 2016 | 13:14
Free electricity from transparent coating, soon? (image courtesy MSU)
Free electricity from transparent coating, soon? (image courtesy MSU)
Typically solar panels tend to be dark, because the darker a material, the more visible light it absorbs, right? The idea of transparent panels would usually get dismissed because they don’t, by definition, absorb any visible light — it just passes right through them, right? Well think again because an MIT startup, Ubiquitous Energy, has created a transparent coating that transforms surfaces into solar panels.

The coating is made of organic molecules that absorb the sun’s ultraviolet and infrared rays. Since the light isn’t in the visible range (for humans), the coating appears clear. The material doubles as a semiconductor: when photons hit the surface, they excite electrons that flow as an electrical current to power the device. An electrical outlet to charge your phone? That’s sooooo 2015!

The coating can be put on anything and turn it into an electrical source — smartwatches, phones, windows, or even cars. “Solar Panels for Every Screen” was originally published in the January/February 2016 issue of Popular Science.

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