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Swiss studies confirm: photovoltaic windows can become a reality

Shortly, our houses will not be equipped with simple windows, but with completely transparent photovoltaic windows, capable of absorbing energy and transforming it into electricity.
This outlook is confirmed by the research led by the Ecole Polytechnique Fédéral de Lausanne, in collaboration with the Tokyo Institute of Technology. The study results were recently published in the scientific journal Physical Review Applied.

Tellurite Glass

Glass is an amorphous solid, which means that it does not have a crystal lattice because its molecules are not arranged in an ordered fashion. Glass is usually made of polymers of silicon dioxide (SiO2), but it can be composed of other types of oxides, including tellurium dioxide (TeO2).

And it is the tellurite glasses, composed mainly of the aforementioned oxide, that are of interest to the Swiss researchers.

How do we approach the fabrication of photovoltaic windows?

When exposed to the pulsed light of femtosecond lasers, tellurite glass partially changes its molecular structure, shifting from a disordered structure to a series of “photoconductive” patterns. This change affects the optical properties of the material. Specifically, the energy of the laser beams causes the formation of tellurium nanocrystals that alternate with tellurium dioxide molecules, allowing the passage of electric current.

This discovery seems to realize the potential of photovoltaic windows since researchers have verified the possibility of etching permanent patterns on the surface of tellurite glass. This operation makes it possible to generate electric current by exposing tellurium (a semiconductor) to different wavelengths (from ultraviolet to visible spectrum).

The real innovation, compared to photovoltaic panels, is the transparency of the material. Although it is only the first stage of research, the prospect of transparent photovoltaic windows is fascinating for architects and builders, as well as customers who are more sensitive to the issues of sustainability and energy conservation.


Read also: Cooling glass defies air conditioning and climate change
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