EAST LANSING, Mich. — The clear glass above the entrance to Michigan State University's Biomedical and Physical Sciences Building may seem like another set of windows, but they are actually transparent solar panels—called solar glass—and they generate energy that powers the lights in the atrium of the building.
Veeral Hardev, vice president of strategy of Ubiquitous Energy, the company that developed this solar glass, said the innovation came from expanding on the physics behind traditional solar panels.
Traditional solar panels capture all sunlight, including visible light energy. Solar glass is different, drawing energy only from the parts of the light spectrum our eyes can't see.
“The concept is, if you can selectively harvest this non-visible light energy—while letting pass through and transmit all the visible light energy that we see as color—we can make something that looks transparent to our human eye," Hardev said. "And it is still harnessing and capturing the majority of the sunlight energy, which is non-visible.”
Solar glass provides an aesthetically pleasing alternative to opaque solar panels, while still providing the environmentally sustainable benefits, Hardev said.
The technology used in these panels was developed by MSU professor Richard Lunt.
“This is one of many examples that the university has in its commitment to sustainable energy and reducing our footprint,” said Emily Guerrant, spokesperson for MSU.
Guerrant said, because this was the first installation of its kind in the world, they want to evaluate its effectiveness through the winter before installing additional solar glass on campus.