Solar windows!

A stack of solar concentrators.

A stack of solar concentrators.

So, in browsing my usual feminist playgrounds this morning, I found something totally cool: Materials scientists at MIT have figured out how to make windows that concentrate different colours of light into a focused border around their edges.

To those unfamiliar with the problems of solar power, this might initially just sound like a pretty but useless discovery. However, part of what makes solar power so expensive is that the light that we collect for it is very unfocused, and so you need a very large amount of solar cells in order to collect a modest amount of power. However, with these new materials, we could potentially just line the edges of sun-facing windows with solar cells, while the material concentrates the light directly onto a much smaller amount of solar cells by shining light to its edges. And best of all, you could easily install these in such a way that they look exactly like normal windows, (except maybe with a slight colouring) pre-empting a lot of the complaints about new green technology that it’s ugly and somehow intrusive.

I’m very much looking forward to the day when we can offer this sort of unobtrusive solution as a way to collect power and move towards renewable energy- hopefully this doesn’t end up as just another one of those “oh, that was cool, but what happened to it?” stories.

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4 thoughts on “Solar windows!

  1. I dunno, aren’t future-technology solutions to energy problems usually the province of right wing Rodney Hide style politicians looking for excuses to not minimise one’s energy use?

  2. Kingmob- I think both generating extra renewable energy and reducing energy usage are important. Why pick only one?

    As long as we remember that the hard work can’t all be done with extra renewable generation, (because it depends on unsustainable trends like fossil fuels, nuclear power, wasteful overconsumption, etc… that cutting down on usage can curtail more directly) I don’t see any problem in supporting good science. Likewise, usage reduction alone won’t solve our energy problems- unless we dramatically cut immigration or the birthrate somehow.

    The issue is the fact that people like Rodney make excuses and that others listen to them, not the fact that people come up with cool new ideas and materials that are used as excuses. Babies are much to cute to be thrown out with bathwater, in my experience. 🙂

  3. kingmob – good call. Negawatts is the way foward. Bright and shiny solutions catch the eye easily and always seem to say ‘steady as she goes, we’ll find the techno-solution’ Good spotting though Ari – those technologies do show that research is alive and well.

  4. I get nervous about future tech as saviour too (although I didn’t hear Ari doing that). Maybe one thing that Green commentators/bloggers can do is when they write/speak about future tech they also, at the same time, remind people of the need for reduction and the problems with relying on technology to save us from our overconsumption. Kind of like putting technology in context rather than leaving it to sit on its own. I don’t think we can have too many reminders of this at this time.

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