The future of the solar industry is looking bright with the development of transparent solar panels that can double as windows while also generating electricity.
Various companies across the world have begun to develop the technology which has primarily been aimed at making buildings more self-sufficient.
However, many companies see further potential with potential applications fir mobile phone or computer screens or to provide power to cars.
Heliatek is one of the leading companies in the field of organic solar film. The German-based company last year reached a new record in the efficiency of transparent solar cells, with its development allowing transparency levels up to 40% with an efficiency of over 7%.
Although the efficiency level still well below the average of 11-15% for a regular solar panels, the flexibility for its application on windows, facades and glass car roofs has delivered a great deal of interest for the company which hopes shortly to raise 60m euro in funding.
Also working on transparent solar panels is Greek/US company, Brite, which plans to establish volume production of the technology with a solar panel efficiency of 5% or better and a transparency level of at least 70%. The company hopes to target its transparent solar panels to eliminate the energy costs related to operating greenhouses.
American-based Ubiquitous Energy is another company leading the charge transparent solar panels. The Silicon Valley start-up is developing transparent solar cells using technology that features an invisible film. The company believes its technology could lead to a future where mobile phones and tablets never run out of batteries, or in which skyscrapers can use their massive banks of windows as solar panels.
As well as the developments of the aforementioned companies, numerous research teams are helping to advance the progress of transparent solar panels.
Researchers at Michigan State University last year created a fully transparent solar concentrator, which could turn any device with a clear surface, such as a window, into a solar cell. The research team is confident that the transparent solar panels can be efficiently deployed in a number of settings, ranging from tall buildings to mobile devices.