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A new class of transparent photovoltaic cells has been developed that can turn an ordinary windowpane into a solar panel without impeding the passage of visible light, scientists said Tuesday. The cells could one day transform skyscrapers into giant solar collectors, said Richard Lunt, one of the researchers on the project. Previous attempts at transparent solar cells have either failed to achieve high efficiency or blocked too much light to be used in windows. But the new cells, based on organic molecules similar to dyes and pigments, are tailored to absorb only the near-infrared spectrum and have the potential to transform that light into electricity at relatively high efficiency. The largest challenge in developing commercial applications for the new solar cells will be longevity. The cells could be packaged in the middle of double-paned windows, which would provide protection from the elements. But the longevity of the cells would still need to approach the life span of the windows themselves, which would not be replaced for decades.
4/20 NY Times Green