A Swiss technology company says it has achieved the impossible, creating the world’s first white solar panels. The Swiss Centre for Electonics and Microtechnology (CSEM) announced that its revolutionary technology allows it to build solar panels that can be incorporated seamlessly in any building design or other application. The panels will “disappear” once installed, no longer standing out from surrounding materials. The old, ugly blue-black look of conventional photovoltaic modules can finally be set aside.
CSEM is specifically targeting the building integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) market, where solar elements are built into the “skin” of the building. Its new technology can be used, however, in other applications as well, on flat as well as curved surfaces.
For years, the non-profit company says in its announcement, architects have been asking for a way to customize the colour of solar panels so that they would blend better when used as part of a building’s skin. White is a “particularly interesting” colour because of its versatility and fresh look. Until now, however, white was thought to be an impossible colour for solar panels because it reflects so much light.
CSEM’s answer was to create a solar cell technology that is sensitive to infrared light. They then used nanotechnology to create an overlay, a super-thin white panel that filters and scatters the visible spectrum while transmitting only the infrared wavelength of light to the solar cells.
Our revolutionary technology lets us achieve what was supposed to be impossible: white and colored solar panels with no visible cells or connections. It can be applied on top of an existing module or integrated into a new module during assembly, on flat or curved surfaces. We can change the color of all existing panels or create customized looks from scratch. Solar panels can now disappear; they become virtually hidden energy sources.
Because it reflects so much light, the white surface remains cooler, which makes the solar cells work more efficiently. The white PV modules also help to keep the building itself cooler, reducing its need, and lowering costs, for air conditioning. Installed on a rooftop they would have an effect similar to that achieved by painting the roof white.
What’s more, the panels need not be white. CSEM says that any colour can be used. The technology can be applied to existing panels or integrated into new modules during assembly.