Two square metres of solar window, researchers say, will generate about as much electricity as a standard rooftop solar panel.

A team from the ARC Centre of Excellence and Monash Uni have successfully produced breakthrough solar cells which generate electricity while allowing light to pass through.

“Rooftop solar has a conversion efficiency of between 15 and 20 per cent,” Professor Jacek Jasieniak says.

“The semi-transparent cells have a conversion efficiency of 17 per cent, while still transmitting more than 10 per cent of the incoming light, so they are right in the zone.

“It’s long been a dream to have windows that generate electricity, and now that looks possible.”

A semi-transparent perovskite solar cell with contrasting levels of light transparency. ©Dr Jae Choul Yu

Solar windows tinted to the same degree as current glazed commercial windows would generate about 140 watts of electricity per square metre, Professor Jasieniak says.

The idea of semitransparent solar cells is not a new one, but earlier designs failed because they were very expensive, unstable or inefficient.

The team is aiming to get this technology on the market within 10 years. The first application is likely to be in multistorey buildings.

Large windows deployed in high-rise buildings are already expensive to make, Professor Jasieniak says; the additional cost of incorporating the semi-transparent solar cells into them will be marginal.

Co-author and CSIRO research scientist, Dr Anthony Chesman, said the team was now working on scaling up the manufacturing process.

“We’ll be looking to develop a large-scale glass manufacturing process that can be easily transferred to industry so manufacturers can readily uptake the technology,” Dr Chesman says.

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