Solar energy is the future. The problem is, it’s been the future for a long time. And while progress has been made, using the sun as a primary source of power hasn’t really broken through.
One possible breakthrough, however, is becoming clearer—literally. The engineers at Ubiquitous Energy are developing solar panels that are completely transparent and as thin as a laminate. They can do this by creating see-through solar cells that absorb only the invisible parts of the solar spectrum—ultraviolet and infrared radiation.
The technology still has a way to go because the cells must become more efficient to prove cost-effective, but their promise is big: solar cells that could become a part of any glass or plastic surface. They could sit, invisibly, atop a smartphone’s display, allowing the phone to charge itself under natural or artificial light. And if the process became part of glass and window manufacturing, homes and skyscrapers could draw power from the sun without the spatial and aesthetic limits of current, opaque solar panels.
If solar is the future, transparent solar may be the future that actually works.
Bloomberg’s profile of Ubiquitous Energy is the latest installment of The Spark, which looks at innovators finding solutions to seemingly unsolvable problems.