A conceptual picture of a house with the windows made of the material proposed in the study.

See windows in a whole new light!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Renewable energy – it’s the wave of the future! Solar is popular, but huge rooftop panels don’t grab everything. What about the light streaming through our windows? Could we capture and harness it for energy?

Enter Yilin Li from Rice University and colleagues. They’re experimenting with a special material to turn windows into battery chargers — conjugated polymers!

These long repeating chains of carbon rings have electrons whizzing across bonds. The researchers sandwiched this material between two clear sheets of acrylic. Then, devices that convert light to electricity were wrapped around the edges – like bread crust.

They tested the windows under both direct sun and LED light. A one-foot-square window converted around three percent of light into energy.

Did Li SEE through the competition? While three percent is lower than what ROOFTOP solar panels can do, it’s a great first step. And, because these windows can even convert LED light, they can work through the night!

What a WINDOW of opportunity!

Reference: Li, Y., Sun, Y., Zhang, Y., Li, Y. and Verduzco, R. High‐performance hybrid luminescent‐scattering solar concentrators based on a luminescent conjugated polymer. Polym Int. (2021).