Fraunhofer works on colourful solar façades

  Photovoltaic glass

Until now, designers of buildings have no choice but to use black or bluish-grey coloured solar panels. With the help of thin-film technologies, researchers have now been able to turn solar cells into colourful creations.

Fraunhofer
The photomontage shows how the Fraunhofer IAO building in Stuttgart could be fitted with an “efficient design” solar façade
Covering a roof or a façade with standard solar cells to generate electricity will change a building’s original appearance – and not always for the better. At present only dark solar panels are widely available on the market. “Not enough work has been done so far on combining photovoltaics and design elements to really do the term ‘customized photovoltaics’ justice,” says Kevin Füchsel, project manager at the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering IOF in Jena.
But things are changing. The IOF physicist has been focusing for the last four years on nanostructured solar cells suitable for mass production as part of a junior research group funded by Germany’s Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF). Together with a Fraunhofer team and scientists from the Friedrich-Schiller University in Jena, the group of optics specialists is looking for cost-effective techniques and manufacturing processes to increase both the efficiency of solar panels and the design flexibility they give architects and designers.
Füchsel is currently working with his “efficient design” team on the fundamentals of how to make coloured solar cells from paper-thin silicon wafers. These will be particularly suited to designs for decorative façades and domestic roofs. The silicon semiconductor material, just a few micrometers thick, absorbs light and turns it into electricity. To enable lots of light to reach the silicon substrate, the semiconductor layer is give...

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