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greensun_solar_panel.jpg

This is a solar panel. Really. If you’ve observed that it looks a lot like a piece of live-edge fluorescent acrylic, you’re more than halfway to understanding how it works. Light entering the panel from the sides is absorbed by dyes and converted, by some fancy top-secret nano-metal whatnot ingredients, into a kind of internal re-radiation that is collected by conventional silicon applied only at the edges. Fair warning: Full science-hype disclosure rules apply here. The responsible party is Israel’s GreenSun, and they do not have a product at market yet. But The Economist seems to be buying in, and their ethos is good for a click or two, in my book.

Sean Michael Ragan

I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I write for MAKE, serve as Technical Editor for MAKE magazine, and develop original DIY content for Make: Projects.


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Comments

  1. Solarboy says:

    Er… MIT invented this over a year ago. The ‘secret’ is just organic dye which absorbs then re-radiates. Since the radiation is trapped in a thin film, the film acts like a light pipe and sends it to the edges. The solar is not consumed by conventional Si, since that would be an extraordinarily complicated way to send a full spectrum to a cell. The light is sent in low concentration to cells with band-gaps tuned to the wavelengths of the dyes. True they can be Si based.

    To recap that is not a solar panel, really. It is a very clever light guide.

    You should get a scientist at Make, would improve the info in these types of posts.

    1. Apis says:

      @Solarboy: Thanks for the information!
      @Make: Yes, you could benefit from a physicist on the team! :)

    2. Sean Michael Ragan says:

      >Er… MIT invented this over a year ago.

      No, they didn’t. This purports to be an improvement on the MIT invention.

      >The ‘secret’ is just organic dye which absorbs then >re-radiates.”

      No, that’s half the secret. What you are describing is simple fluorescence, which is only half of the process GreenSun claims to be using. The second half involves conversion of excitons into surface plasmons by the nano-metal-mystery ingredients I mentioned (they are proprietary and secret, not mystical).

      >Since the radiation is trapped in a thin film, the film
      >acts like a light pipe and sends it to the edges.

      Yes, that’s how the MIT invention works. And that process of transmission by internal reflection is notably less efficient than the surface plasmon transmission claimed by GreenSun.

      >The solar is not consumed by conventional Si, since that
      >would be an extraordinarily complicated way to send a
      >full spectrum to a cell.”

      Yes, it is, at least per the Economist article:

      “The role of the metal, though, is more subtle. The dyes in question are fluorescent—having absorbed the light, they re-radiate it. Normally, that would mean it was lost. But interaction with the nanoparticles turns it into a form of electromagnetic radiation called surface plasmons. These, as their name suggests, propagate over the surface of the glass until they are intercepted by the silicon at its edges.”

      >You should get a scientist at Make, would improve the
      >info in these types of posts.

      I am a scientist, twice degreed in chemistry from the University of Texas at Austin, thank you very much. Please take the trouble to click through before you assume we don’t know what we’re talking about.

  2. Rick says:

    This material has been in common use in UK schools for at least 10 years.

    The acrylic is coloured with IR sensitive dyes. Light entering the face excites the dye and cause it to emit in the visible spectrum. the Acrylic therefore seems to give out more light then is available.

    The light is brightest at the edges because of the light pipe effect and the edges are thinner and concentrate the light.

    It is particularly effective if illuminated with IR LEDs
    I guess Solar panels attached would benefit from the effect.

    1. Sean Michael Ragan says:

      The technology you describe is exactly what I was talking about when I said “it looks a lot like a piece of live-edge fluorescent acrylic.” That’s not all that’s going on here. See my above reply @Solarboy.

  3. Rick says:

    I am a retired UK Technology teacher and available for scientific / technology consultancy ;-)

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