New solar cell could double as a display

NTU's new Perovskite solar cell as seen in the lab, which was found have light emitting properties.

What if all it took to charge a mobile phone was setting it out in the sun? That’s the promise of a new type of solar cell that can both absorb and emit light, opening up the possibility of using it as a display.

The Nanyang Technological University research team behind the solar cell, which recently published its results in Nature Materials, said the cells could also be used to create tinted glass windows that double as lights and displays.

Nanyang Technological University assistant professor Nripan Mathews holds the NTU Perosvkite solar cell. Photo courtesy of Nanyang Technological University.

Nanyang Technological University assistant professor Nripan Mathews holds the NTU Perosvkite solar cell. Photo courtesy of Nanyang Technological University.

“Since we are already working on the scaling up of these materials for large-scale solar cells, it is pretty straightforward to modify the procedures to fabricate light emitting devices as well,” NTU materials science and engineering assistant professor Nripan Mathews said in a release. “The fact that it can also emit light makes it useful as light decorations or displays for the facades of shopping malls and offices.”

The NTU team described how the solar cell works late last year, but didn’t realize until more recently that it can emit light. It can also be tuned to display different colors.

While solar cells generally rely on silicon, the NTU version gets its interesting properties from perovskite, a mineral with superconductive abilities. NTU reports that the cells are five times cheaper to produce than the silicon-based variety because of a simplified manufacturing process that works at room temperature.

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