Nanotechnology could allow solar cells to be sprayed onto window panes according to Norwegian inventors

Windows and buildings could be turned into large scale energy generators within the next five years thanks to new thin film solar cell technology.

Norwegian company EnSol AS has patented the ground breaking, thin film solar cell technology and is working with the University of Leicester Department of Physics and Astronomy to develop a new type of solar cell material that could be coated as a thin film on, for example, windows.

Chris Binns, professor of nanotechnology at the University of Leicester, said the collaboration offered a tremendous opportunity to develop a new method for harnessing solar energy.
“The material has been designed by EnSol AS and is based on nanoparticles that can be synthesised in Leicester.

“In fact, following some initial investment by the company, the equipment we have here at the University of Leicester is uniquely suited in the world to produce small amounts of the material for prototypes”.

He went on to explain that the solar cells, which could potentially be sprayed on, are based on a new operating principle and different to silicon solar cells. One of the key advantages is that it is a transparent thin film that can be coated onto window glass so that windows in buildings can also become power generators.

Some light has to be absorbed in order to generate power and the windows would appear to be slightly tinted.

Alternatively, the cladding or roofing of a building could also be coated offering a higher degree of absorption. As it is a thin film this could be done relatively cheaply.

The material is composed of metal nanoparticles embedded in a transparent composite matrix.

A spokesperson for EnSol AS said: “The basic cell concept has been demonstrated, and it will be the objective of this research and development project to systematically refine this photovoltaic cell technology to achieve a cell efficiency of 20% or greater”.

A thin film deposition system will be designed and constructed in collaboration with the University of Leicester for the fabrication of prototype cells which will be tested and evaluated.