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Exclusive: Researchers discover transparent solar charger for phones

Transparent Luminescent Solar Concentrator Module

The following is an interview with Richard Lunt. Lunt, assistant professor of chemical engineering and material science at Michigan State University, conducted research into a concentrated solar collector that is transparent. Researchers found a thin film could cover windows or even a smartphone screen to provide solar energy. You can learn more here.

How would your technique advance solar phone chargers already on the market?

We see this as a complimentary technology that could be integrated over screens or other aesthetic surfaces to maintain the underlying aesthetic and increase the time the device could be charging.

Could the transparent solar concentrator work like a screen protector for smartphones?
Yes.

How fast could this solar charging method repower a phone?

This depends on many factors such as time, location, phone model etc.

What level of efficiency are you aiming for?

Currently, we produce a solar conversion efficiency close to 1 percent. That efficiency is the same as any other reported PV efficiency – power output of electricity over solar power irradiance in. We are aiming to reach beyond 5% – for reference the best colorful LSC to date is 7%.

Could this recharging method ever achieve the 20% efficiency of solar panels?

Yes, there are transparent photovoltaic approaches that could theoretically reach that efficiency but it is still a number of years away.

What has been the response to word of your research – particularly the smartphone portion?

There has been tremendous enthusiasm for our work. We find that this tends to spark peoples imagination for creative deployment – from buildings, sunroofs, mobile electronics, e-readers, greenhouses, siding or even just to maintain the aesthetic appeal of an underlying surfaces and patterns. Also, we have started a company, Ubiquitous Energy Inc, that is working to commercialize these technologies.