Scientists have designed new ‘smart’ solar glasses incorporated with coloured, semi-transparent organic solar cells that can generate electric power
Scientists have designed new ‘smart’ solar glasses incorporated with coloured, semi-transparent organic solar cells that can generate electric power enough to operate devices such as hearing aids or step counters.
Organic solar cells are flexible, transparent, and light-weight – and can be manufactured in arbitrary shapes or colours, said researchers from Karlsruher Institut fur Technologie (KIT) in Germany.
They are suitable for a variety of applications that cannot be realised with conventional silicon solar cells.
Researchers designed sunglasses with coloured, semitransparent solar cells applied onto lenses that supply a microprocessor and two displays with electric power.
This paves the way for other future applications such as the integration of organic solar cells into windows or overhead glazing, researchers said.
“We bring solar power to places where other solar technologies fail,” said Alexander Colsmann, from KIT’s Light Technology Institute (LTI).
The ‘smart’ solar glasses are self-powered to measure and display the solar illumination intensity and ambient temperature.
The solar cell lenses, perfectly fitted to a commercial frame, have a thickness of about 1.6 millimetres and weigh about six grammes – just like the lenses of traditional sunglasses.
The microprocessor and the two small displays are integrated into the temples of the solar glasses. They show the illumination intensity and the ambient temperature as bar graphs.
The solar glasses also work in indoor environments under illumination down to 500 Lux, which is the usual illumination of an office or a living area.
Under these conditions, each of the “smart” lenses still generates 200 milliwatt of electric power – enough to operate devices such as a hearing aid or a step counter.
“The solar glasses we developed are an example of how organic solar cells may be employed in applications that would not be feasible with conventional photovoltaics,” said PhD student Dominik Landerer, who contributed to the solar glasses at KIT.
According to Colsmann, another field of application is the integration of solar cells into buildings: Since the glass facades of high-rise buildings must often be shaded, it is an obvious option to use organic solar modules for transforming the absorbed light into electric power.
The research was published in the Energy Technology journal.