Quantum dot solar windows go non-toxic, colorless, with record efficiency

Sep 4, 2015

By Los Alamos National Laboratory

A luminescent solar concentrator is an emerging sunlight harvesting technology that has the potential to disrupt the way we think about energy; It could turn any window into a daytime power source.

“In these devices, a fraction of light transmitted through the window is absorbed by nanosized particles (semiconductor ) dispersed in a glass window, re-emitted at the infrared wavelength invisible to the human eye, and wave-guided to a solar cell at the edge of the window,” said Victor Klimov, lead researcher on the project at the Department of Energy’s Los Alamos National Laboratory. “Using this design, a nearly transparent window becomes an electrical generator, one that can power your room’s air conditioner on a hot day or a heater on a cold one.”

This is what becomes possible with new devices – quantum dot LSCs –which will be available in the journal Nature Nanotechnology in the study “Highly efficient large-area colourless luminescent solar concentrators using heavy-metal-free colloidal quantum dots”. The work was performed by researchers at the Center for Advanced Solar Photophysics (CASP) of Los Alamos, led by Klimov and the research team coordinated by Sergio Brovelli and Francesco Meinardi of the Department of Materials Science of the University of Milan-Bicocca (UNIMIB) in Italy.

In April 2014, using special composite quantum dots, the American-Italian collaboration demonstrated the first example of large-area free from reabsorption losses of the guided light by the nanoparticles. This represented a fundamental advancement with respect to the earlier technology, which was based on organic emitters that allowed for the realization of concentrators of only a few centimeters in size.

However, the quantum dots used in previous proof-of-principle devices were still unsuitable for real-world applications, as they were based on the toxic heavy metal cadmium and were capable of absorbing only a small portion of the solar light. This resulted in limited light-harvesting efficiency and strong yellow/red coloring of the concentrators, which complicated their application in residential environments.

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4 comments on “Quantum dot solar windows go non-toxic, colorless, with record efficiency

  • If some of the light – especially in areas of strong sun-glare, can be diverted to produce solar electricity from glass fitted to normal window frames, this should produce massive savings, particularly on high-rise buildings clear of shadows.

    It would not be of much benefit in cold climates, where sunlight through windows heats the rooms, thus reducing the need for other forms of generated heat.

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  • How is this over-optimistic in the slightest? They’ve developed viable technology within a year of having an initial proof of concept. This doesn’t give a prediction, but with the rate at which semiconductor technology is advancing, you could see this creeping into some buildings within 10 years, easily

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