(NaturalNews) Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have developed a special kind of dye that can transform windows into photovoltaic solar panels, according to an article published in the journal Science.
The new technology could be in commercial production within the next three years, researchers say. Beyond simply powering individual homes, it could even be used to transform skyscrapers into power plants.
"It makes sense to coat the side of [very tall] buildings with these new panes," researcher Marc Baldo said. "It's not far fetched at all."
Previous research into ways to gather more solar power from individual panels have focused on tracking and magnifying sunlight by means of large collectors. These devices are large and expensive, however, limiting their utility.
The current device merely utilizes existing windows as collectors, funneling the light energy to solar panels in the window frames.
"What we have is a piece of glass, with a very thin layer of paint or dye on top," Baldo said. "The light comes in and hits the dye ... which absorbs it and re-emits the light, but now it's inside the glass so it bounces along there until it gets to the edge. So you only need to mount the solar cells around the edge."
Although the dye would change the appearance of the glass, Baldo said, it should not significantly hamper the basic functions of a window.
"The coated glass would let through about 10 percent of the sun to light up the room, and the remainder would be captured and funneled to the edges to solar cells to generate electricity," he said. "It would look like smoked glass because of the dyes."
The researchers said that the dyes could also improve the efficiency of existing panels by 50 percent, simply by placing the dyed glass on top of them.