Building-integrated solar panels that are efficient as well as aesthetic have been fabricated by researchers in China. Color is imparted to solar devices by the inclusion of photonic glass as a structural material that exerts little detrimental impact on power conversion efficiency.

The glass material, composed of a thin, disorderly layer of dielectric microscopic zinc sulfide spheres, was applied to silicon solar cell surfaces. Varying the sizes of the microspheres altered the final colors achieved, all of which demonstrated low power conversion efficiency loss relative to conventional black solar cells. As reported in ACS Nano, panels with blue, green and purple hues showed only slight efficiency declines from 22.6% to 21.5%.

The solar panels manufactured with photonic glass layers were also observed to maintain color and performance during standard durability tests. The researchers from Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Xinjiang University and Hong Kong Polytechnic University indicate that this fabrication process can be easily scaled up and plan to extend the technology to a wider range of colors.

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