A new transparent thin film material fabricated by scientists at the DOE Brookhaven National Laboratory and Los Alamos National Laboratory could be the key to developing transparent solar panels and windows that actually absorb solar energy and turn it into electrical power.
The new material consists of a semiconducting polymer doped with carbon-rich fullerenes. A honeycomb-patterned think film forms hexagon-shaped cells over an area up to several millimeters.
“Though such honeycomb-patterned thin films have previously been made using conventional polymers like polystyrene, this is the first report of such a material that blends semiconductors and fullerenes to absorb light and efficiently generate charge and charge separation,” says lead scientist Mircea Cotlet, a physical chemist at Brookhaven’s Center for Functional Nanomaterials (CFN).
The honeycomb thin films were created by a flow of micrometer-size water droplets across a layer of polymer/fullrene blend solution. The water droplets self-assemble into arrays within the solution, and then the solvent evaporates, forming the honeycomb pattern.
“This is a cost-effective method, with potential to be scaled up from the laboratory to industrial-scale production,” says Zhihua Xu, materials scientist at the CFN.
The new material could create significant advances in regards to sustainability and energy-efficiency, allowing for homes and facilities that could combine this window technology with a solar roof for a clean, cost-effective energy solution.