If your battery drains in no time, and you have trouble finding an outlet to keep your source of contact with the rest of the world alive, then this the perfect invention for you. An MIT startup has created a transparent coating that transforms surfaces into solar panels.
Solar panels work by soaking up photons from light, which are converted to electricity. Darker the surface, the more visible light it absorbs. The idea of transparent panels would usually get dismissed because they don’t, by definition, absorb any visible light—it just passes right through them.
Ubiquitous Energy has thus created a coating made of organic molecules that absorb the sun’s ultraviolet and infrared rays. These rays aren’t in the visible range of humans, and thus the surface will appear clear to us. The material doubles as a semiconductor: When photons hit the surface, they excite electrons that flow as an electrical current to power the device.
“You can put the coating on anything and turn it into an electrical source,” says company founder Miles Barr. Barr anticipates it will convert solar energy into electricity with 10 percent efficiency, which is two-thirds the industry average for solar panels.