Solar Cells to Make Power-Generating Windows

solar windows

An Oxford University-affiliated group has won over $150,000 to commercialize its solar cells that can be printed directly onto glass to make power-generating windows. Oxford Photovoltaics won the prize money from the U.K. Technology Strategy Board’s “Disruptive Solutions Competition.”

There are many types of solar cell technology under development–silicon-based cells, plastic ones–but Oxford PV takes an unusual approach. It uses a dye-sensitive cell that imitates plants’ photosynthetic process, and it uses screen printing technology to affix those cells directly onto windows.

So-called “organic” solar cells mimic photosynthesis through the use of a dye that kicks loose an electron, starting a current. The screen printing technique helps easily seal and protect the cells from the environment, ideally making the cells last longer–expectancies of 20 years are needed to realistically appeal to those in construction. “We think there’s an enormous market in building the solar-cell material into the fabric of the building rather than having bolt-on solar cells,” chief executive Kevin Arthur told The Engineer.

Oxford PV isn’t the first to try either of these approaches–we’ve reported on the window-embedded cells before–but it has combined the two effectively enough, or at least made a compelling enough show at the Disruptive Solutions Competition’s three-part pitching process, to impress the Technology Strategy Board.

How will Oxford PV use its new windfall of cash? It intends to pick up the pace on the prototyping process over the next six months, partnering with other manufacturers.

[Image: Flickr user hotzeplotz]