UCLA researchers developed a new kind of solar cell that is both transparent and generates electricity, according to a UCLA news release. The new polymer solar cell (PSC), which is featured in the journal ACS Nano, are almost 70 percent transparent and draw mainly from infrared light, not visible light.

"These results open the potential for visibly transparent polymer solar cells as add-on components of portable electronics, smart windows and building-integrated photovoltaics and in other applications," said Yang Yang, UCLA professor of materials science and engineering, and director of the Nano Renewable Energy Center at California NanoSystems Institute. "Our new PSCs are made from plastic-like materials and are lightweight and flexible," he said. "More importantly, they can be produced in high volume at low cost."

Many researchers have tried to create a solar cell that is both efficient and transparent, but Yang’s project is one of the first to successfully do both. In the past, researchers typically used opaque metal electrodes in their design, but Yang used a mixture of silver nanowire and titanium dioxide nanoparticles, which makes a transparent conductor. This method also has the advantage of allowing for economical fabrication through solution processing.

The cells, which are 4 percent power-conversion efficient, could someday become regular components of commercial and residential windows.