Researchers from the University of Minnesota and the University of Milano-Bicocca have developed a technique to use silicon nanoparticles to trap and collect the useful frequencies of light that shine through windows, turning them into energy harvesters.

They have published their research in the journal Nature Photonics where they have created high-tech silicon nanoparticles which are embedded into luminescent solar concentrators (LSCs). These nanoparticles are unique as they can increase the efficiency of the solar windows when compared to flat solar concentrators.

A Professor from mechanical engineering background, Uwe Kortshagen from the University of Minnesota discussed about this design.

He said,”In our lab, we ‘trick’ nature by shirking the dimension of silicon crystals to a few nanometers, that is about one ten-thousandths of the diameter of human hair. At this size, silicon’s properties change and it becomes an efficient light emitter, with the important property not to re-absorb its own luminescence. This is the key feature that makes silicon nanoparticles ideally suited for LSC applications.”

Photovoltaic windows and rooftops are pushing to be real game changers in the race to make cities renewable and sustainable. While solar panels were usually avoided due to space, aesthetics and cost issues; the modern glass offices can fit in the photovoltaic windows and roof tiles without changing the aesthetics of the building while meeting the structure’s electricity needs.

“This will make LSC-based photovoltaic windows a real technology for the building-integrated photovoltaic market without the potential limitations of other classes of nanoparticles based on relatively rare materials,” adds Francesco Meinardi, physics professor at the University of Milano-Bicocca and one of the first authors of the paper.

The silicon nanoparticles are produced using a plasma reactor which turns them into a powder. This creates flexible LSCs that efficiently capture up to five percent of the sun’s energy, which is more than any other solar technology available, till date.

The researchers claim that the silicon nanoparticles can be turned into commercially viable solar windows very soon and be brought into the photovoltaic market.


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