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MIT Startup Makes Transparent Solar Panel That Will Allow Your Smartphone to Power Itself

Posted February 25, 2013 12:34 PM

From ExtremeTech:

Transparent solar panels - think about it for a moment: Sheets of transparent glass or plastic film that also generate electricity. It's almost the perfect solution for all our energy needs, generating free power from every available surface, window, and computer display.

The concept of transparent solar panels isn't new, of course, but it now looks like they're finally finding their way to market: Ubiquitous Energy, a startup that was spun off from MIT last year, is developing a technology and patent portfolio and hopes to bring affordable transparent solar panels to market soon.

At this point, you might be wondering how transparent solar cells actually work - after all, if it's transparent, how can it absorb light energy? The simple answer is that light energy comes in many frequencies (colors), but as far as we humans are concerned, it is only the visible wavelengths - from blue, through green and yellow, to red - that really matter. The Sun, however, pumps out a huge amount of infrared light, and some ultraviolet light - both of which are invisible to the human eye, but which can also generate large amounts of electricity if captured by a solar cell.

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Re: MIT Startup Makes Transparent Solar Panel That Will Allow Your Smartphone to Power Itself

02/26/2013 8:40 AM

And do these panels still work when my cell phone is in my pocket? Or when I'm sitting in an office with fluorescent lighting overhead? How about on rainy or cloudy days?

Yeah. So. How much are these panels going to cost that will only work with my cell phone when I'm outside, on a sunny day, with my cell phone resting on top of my head?

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Re: MIT Startup Makes Transparent Solar Panel That Will Allow Your Smartphone to Power Itself

02/26/2013 1:09 PM

Small transparent solar panels (and this is not the first one, they have been around for a while) always seemed gimmicky to me. There is also a further practical problem unfortunately.

The sun's rays transfer heat, leaving your cell phone in the sun will make it hot, heat degrades vital component life such as capacitors, this reduces cell phone life.

I don't know what effect direct sunlight exposure does to modern screen technologies either.

As for the articles bold claim that it can power the cellphone itself, that is BS - you will still need a battery given the limited amount of power generated over the small surface area even it it reached a claimed 80-90% efficiency in full sunlight conditions (which is theoretically impossible given the technology being used). I don't know where they are getting their figures from.

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