Engineers develop new solar concentrators to harness solar energy from windows

Amidst relentless efforts of scientists to harness renewable energy, a research initiative carried out by engineers at Rice University suggests a colorful solution to harness solar energy. Termed luminescent solar concentrators (LSCs) – the object is considered as next-generation energy collection solution – that can be placed on windows of homes, offices.

To carry out the research, the team designed and constructed windows of one square feet that squeezes a conjugated polymer between two transparent acrylic panels.

Coming to the design of this window, the middle coating is the secret sauce. Structurally, conjugated polymers are materials that can be molded with specific physical or chemical properties for various applications such as sensors for biomedical devices and conductive films.

Meanwhile, the polymer compound used by engineers at Rice University is called poly[naphthalene-alt-vinylene]. Whilst the compound absorbs and discharges red light, but adjusting the molecular ingredients should improve its property to absorb light in various colors.

How does the polymer compound work?

Serving as a waveguide, the polymer compound accepts light from any direction but limits how it is discharged. Due to this phenomenon, the light is concentrated on the solar cells and converted into electricity.

β€œIn fact, the motivation for the research is to find a solution for energy crisis of buildings through integrated photovoltaics,” stated the lead researcher. Interestingly, the lead researchers started the project as part of a smart glass contest.

At present, solar rooftops are the mainstream solution to harness solar energy. However, the solar rooftops need to be facing toward the sun to maximize their efficiency and they are not very pleasing in appearance.

The study is published in the journal Polymer International.