Researchers give solar cells a colorful transformation

Fraunhofer IAO building with efficient design solar facade

With the world going green, we can see more and more people turning to green energy. It is pleasing to see that roofs and façades covered with solar panels is no more a rare sight. But, the only problem with solar panels is you don’t have many color choices, giving your home same boring appearance. To add a little spice to our solar panels, researchers at Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering IOF, Jena have finally succeeded in turning solar cells into colorful creations.

Fraunhofer team in collaboration with the Friedrich-Schiller University scientists is searching for cost-effective techniques and manufacturing processes to enhance efficiency and flexibility of solar panels. The research backed by Germany’s Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF) will result in producing colored solar cells from paper-thin silicon wafers. Measuring just a few micrometers thick, the silicon semiconductor material soaks sunlight and converts it into electricity.

The semiconductor layer comes with an optically neutral protective barrier (insulator) that allows maximum light to reach the silicon substrate. Then over the insulator a hundred-nanometer-thick transparent conductive oxide (TCO) is applied that not just conducts electricity but also draws as many light particles as possible to the semiconductor layer below. Because of its transparent outer layer, the SIS (semiconductor-insulator-semiconductor) solar cell not only captures more light, but also can also be created in different colors and shapes. With colored solar panels we can soon hope to get decorative facades and rooftops, adding new life to our homes.

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