You can't go down a street in Britain these days without seeing a house or commercial premises with solar panels on the roof. They're not the best looking things and are only worthwhile if your roof faces south. But, they're popular for a reason and, commercially, if you compare business electricity charges
between a company with solar panels and one without, you could see a marked difference.
However, our friends across the pond have revealed that in the future you might not need to be restricted to putting them on the roof - you may be able to put them on your windows too.
Groundbreaking scientists at UCLA, California have come up with a transparent, thin, solar cell that can transform sun light into electricity, yet still allow light to stream through it.
Study leader and director of the Nano Renewable Energy Centre at CNSI, Professor Yang Yang explained, "If you take a piece of glass and compare it to our solar cell, it is difficult to tell the difference."
The see-through cell is constructed from a plastic that can absorb invisible infrared light yet at the same time let visible light through.
Incredibly, to aid the window effect, the scientists have constructed a transparent metal to carry the charge from the solar cell. They created a silver 'nano wire' which can conduct electricity yet stay invisible.
The resultant solar panel is near window quality at 70& transparency, however there is a downside to its effectiveness. Non-transparent solar panels are by far the most effective and by making them closer to glass, there is a loss of 30% in a cell's energy-absorbing capability.
Despite this minor setback, the solar panels look to be a real winner and the whole process is very economical. They can be fabricated as a liquid, which in turn may be 'spray-painted' on.
The Californian boffins have already had high levels of interest from ready buyers, but they feel the finished, marketable product is a good five years away yet. One thing's for sure, it will open up a far wider market for solar energy, as the panels won't detract from the look of a building in the same way as current roof situated panels will and additionally give more options for positioning.