Written by R.E. Lord

Transparent Conductive MaterialA new material could be used to develop ultra-thin, see-through solar panels, putting a futuristic power-generating window within reach, according to scientists at the Brookhaven National Laboratory and Los Alamos National Laboratory.

The scientists announced this week that they’ve made “transparent thin films capable of absorbing light and generating electric charge over a relatively large area.” The research is described in-depth in the journal Chemistry of Materials.

“The material consists of a semiconducting polymer doped with carbon-rich fullerenes,” according to researchers at the Department of Energy facilities. “Under carefully controlled conditions, the material self-assembles to form a reproducible pattern of micron-size hexagon-shaped cells over a relatively large area (up to several millimeters).”

Lead scientist Mircea Cotlet, a physical chemist at Brookhaven’s Center for Functional Nanomaterials (CFN), said: “Though such honeycomb-patterned thin films have previously been made using conventional polymers like polystyrene, this is the first report of such a material that blends semiconductors and fullerenes to absorb light and efficiently generate charge and charge separation.”

The technology could have “wide range of practical applications,” said study co-author Zhihua Xu, including “energy-generating solar windows, transparent solar panels, and new kinds of optical displays.”

“Imagine a house with windows made of this kind of material, which, combined with a solar roof, would cut its electricity costs significantly. This is pretty exciting,” Cotlet said.