This could be way bigger than regenerative braking.

A product that allows windows to use natural or artificial light to generate electricity got a little closer to commercialization after a Maryland-based company working with the U.S. Department of Energy found a way to lower the cost of production.

New Energy Technologies Inc., along with the Energy Department's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), found a way to reduce the cost of what they call see-through solar cells that allow glass to produce electricity when coated with "an organic solar array composed of a series of ultra-small solar cells measuring less than ¼ the size of a grain of rice each." The product – called, descriptively, SolarWindow – can now be produced at lower temperatures and under "ambient" pressure, New Energy Technologies says. The company had also worked with the University of South Florida on the project.

Eventually, New Energy Technology, which is publicly traded, is looking to commercialize the product for potential use on 85 million U.S. homes and commercial buildings. No word on whether cars will be next.
Show full PR text
New Energy Technologies Inc. and National Renewable Energy Laboratory Create Improved Process for Technology Capable of Generating Electricity on See-Through Glass

Columbia, MD – June 18, 2012 – New Energy Technologies, Inc., developer of see-through solar cells for generating electricity on glass, today announces an improvement in its manufacturing technique that should lead to higher speed, lower costs and greater durability.

Teaming with the US Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory, New Energy Technologies Inc. (OTCQB: NENE) has developed the use of low-cost materials and a special application technique that could help optimize the movement of electrons within the ultra-thin solar cells. This should increase the amount of electricity produced when New Energy's see-through SolarWindow™ prototype is exposed to natural or artificial light.

Importantly, the improvement to the technology can be executed at ambient pressure and low temperatures, allowing researchers to avoid the use of materials that must otherwise be deposited using high temperature vacuum deposition. Vacuum deposition is both expensive and time-consuming and, thus, not practical for high speed and large-scale applications. Today's innovation promotes low processing temperatures, enabling high-speed roll-to-roll (R2R) and sheet-to-sheet (S2S) manufacturing. This large-area, R2R and S2S fabrication capability and improved durability of SolarWindow™ technology are crucial for production of market-ready electricity-generating coatings on see-through glass and plastic.

Previously, New Energy, with assistance from University of South Florida and NREL, developed important improvements to New Energy's SolarWindow™ technology, capable of generating electricity on see-through glass. These improvements include enhancements that address advancing durability, power performance, and cost-effective manufacturability – all important to the eventual commercial deployment of New Energy's SolarWindow™ technology.

Today's announcement marks the latest in a series of technical accomplishments that Company and NREL research teams have recently achieved.

"Over the past few months, our researchers have unveiled a virtually invisible conductive wiring system, which collects and transports electricity on SolarWindow™ prototypes, and have fabricated a large area working module, which is more than 14-times larger than previous organic photovoltaic devices fabricated at NREL," stated Mr. John A. Conklin, President and CEO of New Energy Technologies, Inc. "Earlier, we developed our first-ever working SolarWindow™ prototype using a faster, rapid scale-up process for applying solution-based coatings.

"Together, these achievements have moved us closer to our manufacturing, scale-up, durability, and power production goals – all important factors to advancing our SolarWindow™ technology towards commercial launch," Conklin added.

To generate electricity on SolarWindow™ prototypes, researchers creatively layer and arrange unique, ultra-thin see-through solar cells onto glass. Each of these cells is arranged in a network and interconnected by way of a virtually invisible grid-like wiring system.

Within these ultra-thin solar cells, the light-induced movement of electrons generates electricity. When SolarWindow™ prototypes are exposed to light, the light's energy prompts electron movement through specific physical and chemical mechanisms leading to power generation.

Dr. Scott R. Hammond, Principal Scientist at New Energy Technologies, Inc., believes the discovery announced today could also favorably improve durability and shelf-life of the Company's future SolarWindow™ products. "NREL scientists have previously published unrelated results that demonstrate dramatic improvements to the operational and shelf-life of unprotected (i.e., non-encapsulated) photovoltaic devices utilizing related materials when subjected to continuous illumination. No doubt, this is a promising and significant advancement."

Currently under development for eventual commercial deployment in the estimated 85 million commercial buildings and homes in America, SolarWindow™ technology is the subject of ten patent filings and is the world's first-of-its-kind technology capable of generating electricity on see-through glass windows.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 36 Comments
      • 3 Years Ago
      I don't understand why most of the skeptical commenters are focusing on residential or automotive applications. Even at 50W per window, think about the energy production capabilities of Boston's Hancock Tower, let alone the new Chinese Sky City One!
        2 Wheeled Menace
        • 3 Years Ago
        Good idea. Now can you convince them to pay for a massive solar array that produces half the electricity as a regular, tracking / roof solar panel? That is the challenge.
        Ducman69
        • 3 Years Ago
        Because I'm on green.AUTOblog... this is a car website.
      2 Wheeled Menace
      • 3 Years Ago
      Hm, good luck with that. Main problem i see is that a window on the side of a house is going to get far less solar exposure per day. So it already has a competitive disadvantage with solar panels, which already don't have a high enough 'cost to benefit' ratio for most consumers to adopt en-masse. It would have to be priced lower than regular panels to make up for it. Could be cool for a greenhouse though? especially if you had a aquaponic system - it could be self contained and self powered !
      paulwesterberg
      • 3 Years Ago
      Vehicle solar cells are not much use if it is parked in a garage.
      Ducman69
      • 3 Years Ago
      Saying "if cells could get to 50% efficiency" is like saying "if internal combustion engines could get to 50% efficiency" in which case we wouldn't even bother looking for alternatives anytime soon with such great fuel economy. Regarding "remote areas without electricity", I've lived in developing countries in SE Asia and even they have no problems finding an electrical outlet. You'd have to go to poor parts of remote Africa before you get away from an electrical grid, and they can't afford a solar power vehicle regardless.
      DaveMart
      • 3 Years Ago
      I tend to like solar much better when it has no on-site installation costs, unlike panels.
      BipDBo
      • 3 Years Ago
      Skylights. The tiny solar cells would block a portion of the light. Skylights are usually tinted anyway because they don't want the light coming in to be overly bright. One big expense in solar cells is providing the structure to hold them. If you are already buying the skylight, you've already bought that structure. This could work just like a standard skylight, but just replacing the tint in the upper pane with tiny solar cells. A spectrum sensitive (low-E) coating could be applied to the lower surface of the glass to further filter infared heat and UV light (which fades fabrics). A second or even third pane with an Argon gap could reduce conductive heat transfer. Solar is just a bad application for cars. Anyone with money for that sort of thing also has a garage.
      Pandabear
      • 3 Years Ago
      As much as I think using only PV for the sole electricity production is inefficient and stupid, the way it can be used to block sunlight that heat a place (reduce heat in a house or a car) while generating just enough peak load to offset what the AC will run at expensive peak time is a good idea. In residential, you should only size your PV to power the AC in the summer (or slightly under as it would balance off the most expensive rate with average output), and the cost of reducing peak load and the need to build more power plant and upgrade the grid to handle peak load should be factored in as well. Using a battery to store the day time production to run off grid appliances at night is stupid.
      ducman69
      • 3 Years Ago
      It doesn't matter if you can create electricity from windows. That is irrelevant, because we can produce electricity by so many other means. All that matters is if you can produce electricity more cost effectively and conveniently than the plethora of other means at our disposal. Solar panels are already inefficient enough as it is from a weight and cost perspective for automobiles, why not fix that first before tackling windows that most of the time won't even be angled properly to capture maximal solar radiation? The only practical use of solar panels (as demonstrated by how ridiculously expensive, impractical, and low performance solar powered race cars are now) would be inexpensive panels on the roof that can run a fan that can flow enough CFM to keep the car cool while its parked in the sun. That I would pay a bit extra for, but this other stuff is non-sense.
        Dan Frederiksen
        • 3 Years Ago
        @ducman69
        not everything has to be for cars. but you're right that if it's expensive and inefficient then it's a gimmick. but who says it has to be. as for cells on cars, if cells could get to 50% efficiency or even above then they could actually net power a light and aerodynamic car. assuming it's parked outside. it's not vital to EVs but there is a certain elegance to a car that powers itself, particularly in remote areas without electricity
      leong
      • 3 Years Ago
      1.4kw/m2 is the total radiated energy density from the sun. the best solar cell these days can do 15% conversion. so at best you have 200W with 1m^2 of window that is exposed under perfect sunshine. with inverter and converter loss, you can get 150W at best.... in real life, more likely under 50W.
        2 Wheeled Menace
        • 3 Years Ago
        @leong
        Hey! You can design the DC-DC converters to be 93% or higher in efficiency, and run the solar system at nominal household voltage by arranging the cells in a proper series configuration, which saves you massive amounts of energy when you go to convert that the resultant 70v-140v DC to 115V AC. Alas, nobody is smart enough to do this just yet. We still are converting 12V DC to 115V AC O_O.. but the system can be far better. I will be doing this when i set up my BIG array. Don't be hatin' solar just yet. it is still in it's awkward teenage stage and hasn't fully matured. It can rock and the price of panels keeps plummeting.. But aiming one of these panels vertically ( on the side of your house ) is basically punching yourself in the gonads.
          SNP
          • 3 Years Ago
          @2 Wheeled Menace
          @ducman69. Kudos. I second your statement. But what if the tax dollars werent really meant to dole out solar arrays to our citizens, but to convince the rest of the world to poor money into mass producing this expensive technology just before the US announces a big energy cost reducing innovation. Now the world has got hundreds of billions of dollars in solar panel subsidies that's now competing against cheap natgas. the chinese are losing $ on every panel they sell, the EU is buying it up with money they dont have. Meanwhile, we in the US can pick and choose which panels we like and dont like - after all, out of the hundreds of billions in global subsidies, the US only put up a several billion. LOL!!! Obama really knows how to play this game of chess.
          SNP
          • 3 Years Ago
          @2 Wheeled Menace
          I think his statement was that the Panel photon=>electricity conversion rate is 15%. It can actually go up to 50-60%, but those arent normal panels being sold on the market. There's another conversion loss when going from PV battery to actual in home use. So your optimistic 93% of his optimistic 15% already lowers the numbers further.
          ducman69
          • 3 Years Ago
          @2 Wheeled Menace
          I hate it when I have to open my wallet to pay for YOUR inefficient solar array, because if I don't pay my taxes a man in a blue suit with a gun comes by my house, takes my things, and then throws me behind bars.
          2 Wheeled Menace
          • 3 Years Ago
          @2 Wheeled Menace
          LOL ducman, i see what you did there. Don't worry, i paid cash for my small solar array and will pay cash for the large one :) I don't like the subsidies on panels or green cars, but i gotta say those subsidies do bug me the least :P
        Ryan
        • 3 Years Ago
        @leong
        Enphase is at 96% conversion efficiency. Technology has progressed, keep up with it.
          SNP
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Ryan
          I think his statement was that the Panel photon=>electricity conversion rate is 15%. It can actually go up to 50-60%, but those arent normal panels being sold on the market. There's another conversion loss when going from PV battery to actual in home use. So your optimistic 96% of his optimistic 15% already lowers the numbers further.
          leong
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Ryan
          don't confuse electronics efficiency and solar energy conversion efficiency. Even just for the electronics the 96% number is the 'peak efficiency', which means at the rated power, rated voltage, which is seldom the case in real life. I don't hate solar and they are good as part of the solution.. so far, from the consumer point of view, the panels are cheap because of the government subsidy, BUT, it is the CHINESE GOVERNMENT and CHINESE TAXPAYERS! bad for solar companies here, but enjoy while you can as a consumer. (hint, US is imposing anti-dumping tariff on Chinese solar panels)
      • 3 Years Ago
      I would simply just repeat here an excerpt from "The Great German Energy Experiment" article (Technology Review): "Along a rural road in the western German state of North Rhine–Westphalia lives a farmer named Norbert Leurs... ...he covered his piggery, barn, and house with solar panels—never mind that the skies are often gray and his roofs aren't all optimally oriented... [and as he sells his solar panels'excess energy back to the grid] ...he now collects $280,000 a year, and he expects over $2 million in profits after he pays off his loans." Not bad. #somuchaboutsolarenergy
        ducman69
        • 3 Years Ago
        Yes, and Connie made over $500K a year working from home, click here to find out more! *sigh* If you believe that rubbish, I have a bridge I'd like to sell you.
          • 3 Years Ago
          @ducman69
          Hi ducman69, Selling your bridge? If it's the same bridge you use for hiding under it as you occasionally leave your mom's basement, then you'd rather keep it. However, thanks for the generous offer.
      SNP
      • 3 Years Ago
      I've been railing against solar panels so much for so long, I havent even looked around the web to see what the latest global position is on this technology. Look at these headlines from the top 10list of google search for global subsidies, solar panels: - Nov2011 @Telegraph - Solar giant 'could quit UK' after Government cuts to subsidies - Feb2012 @Slate - Germany is cutting solar-power subsidies because they are expensive and inefficient. - Mar2012 @WashPos - Solar industry faces subsidy cuts in Europe - May2012 @Gaurdian - Solar panel demand down nearly 90% following subsidy cut - May2012 @Spiegel - German and Chinese Solar Firms Fight for Survival The fools, china doles out hundreds of billions in loans to chinese firms to build these panels. EU doles out hundreds of billions in subsidies to buy them. EU cuts subsidies, demand drops like a rock. Now chinese firms cant make a profit selling their panels and go under leaving billions in loans in default. Meanwhile, all it took was Obama in 2009 to say - "green energy is the future - we're going to pump in several billion into our solar panel markets!"
        SNP
        • 3 Years Ago
        @SNP
        Oh no, I think i'm dashing the hopes and dreams of solar panel/BEV enthusiasts on this blog. The world listened to those ideals of having a sheet of glass in the desert power our lives, they poured everything they had into it and now they're going into financial meltdown cause it all turned out to be a very very poor investment.
        2 Wheeled Menace
        • 3 Years Ago
        @SNP
        Hm. i already have a solar array that powers about 90% of my personal transportation, carbon free. My dreams are not dashed, they're reality. And i'm left wondering what you are getting at here? It is economical ( over the very long run ) for any average joe to purchase and install solar panels. They eventually do start to pay you back around half their lifespan. You seem to be arguing against argument actions, which have had very poor results. But you and me could both go buy some panels right now and start reaping the benefits. Change starts with you.
      Dan Frederiksen
      • 3 Years Ago
      Ducman, actually ICE can go above 50%..
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