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The Future of Solar Energy

Laila Salgado




In the face of climate change, scientists and engineers have been steadfast in their pursuit of renewable energy sources. Human’s ever-increasing advancement in technology calls for an extensive supply of electrical power, and fossil fuels are no longer a viable option. In attempts to find an alternative energy source, some researchers have turned to the blazing star that our Earth orbits: the Sun. Solar panels have provided an excellent source of sustainable energy, but scientists continue to reach for the stars, or rather, the Sun, to progress further in solar technology. Two innovations at the forefront of this movement are solar paint and solar glass, solutions that could convert ordinary surfaces to sources of infinite power.


Solar Paint

Solar paint allows any surface to be an energy generator. There are three different types of solar paint: solar paint hydrogen, photovoltaic paint, and perovskite solar paint. Solar paint hydrogen is an innovation developed by researchers from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology that produces energy from solar power and water. The paint uses energy from the sun to split absorbed water molecules into oxygen and hydrogen, and this hydrogen is then converted into energy. Photovoltaic paint, also known as quantum dots, uses nanoscale semiconductors to transform sunlight into electricity. Perovskite solar cells, made from materials with similar structures to the mineral calcium titanium oxide, take on a liquid form and have even been developed into a spray-on form. All three of these solar paints could be applied to the surfaces of roofs, cars, and walls, offering a clean power source that can mold seamlessly to any object.


This versatility is solar paint’s number one benefit, besides its sustainable status of course. While traditional solar panels require a significant amount of space and installation effort, solar paint is applied to both large and small surfaces with ease. Solar paint’s flowing properties would be essential to tightly-packed urban environments that do not have room for solar panel integration, therefore expanding the reach of clean energy.


Solar Glass

Solar glass, also known as photovoltaic glass, provides another alternative to solar panels that is both practical and aesthetically pleasing. Two companies that have developed this new solar technology are Onyx Solar and Ubiquitous Energy; their solar windows allow visible light to pass through while converting ultraviolet and infrared light into energy. These solar panels are being tested around the world, a specific example being Michigan State University. In the future, solar windows could permit entire buildings to generate electricity, allowing cities and neighborhoods to maintain their visual appearance while also contributing to the clean-energy movement.


Challenges and Prospects

While solar paint and solar glass appear to be ideal alternatives to fossil fuels, these carbon-neutral technologies are still in the early stages of production and only offer a glimpse into the future of energy. The main challenge to overcome is efficiency, the amount of energy the technology is capable of absorbing and converting to electricity. As of now, solar paint efficiency ranges from 3% - 8%, which is well below the efficiency of traditional solar panels. Likewise, solar glass is reported to have only 20% of the efficiency of regular solar panels. Aside from energy efficiency, these solar technologies must also be both durable and commercially feasible for widespread production and long-term use.


Nevertheless, the prospects of solar paint and solar glass are enthralling and not far from the future. Continued research and development in this area could yield substantial progress in sustainable infrastructure and the renewable energy field, creating a world where energy climbs the windows of towering skyscrapers and brushes in bright hues across the walls of our homes, a world where we reject the damage of fossil fuel emissions and allow the sun to cascade across our rooftops, powering the world to a greener and energy-efficient future.


Citations

  1. Pexels. (2023). Free Stock Photos. Pexels.com; Pexels. https://www.pexels.com/

  2. Photovoltaic Glass for Buildings - Onyx Solar. (n.d.). Onyxsolar.com. https://onyxsolar.com

  3. Power generation you can see through. (n.d.). MSUToday | Michigan State University. https://msutoday.msu.edu/news/...

  4. Reilly, C. (n.d.). These Solar Windows Are an Invisible Alternative to Solar Panels. CNET. https://www.cnet.com/science/t...

  5. RMIT University. (2012). Rmit.edu.au. https://www.rmit.edu.au/

  6. Solar Action Alliance. (2017, June 20). Solar Paint - The Future of Solar? - Solar Action Alliance. Solar Action Alliance. https://solaractionalliance.or...

  7. Solar paint: the next big thing in renewable energy? (n.d.). Solar Reviews. https://www.solarreviews.com/blog/solar-paint-hydrogen-quantum-dot-perovskite-solar-cells



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