The next solar panel could be a window.
Konarka Technologies and Air Products have received a grant from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to develop a transparent, flexible solar panel that could be placed on a piece of glass or integrated into a window.
Konarka specializes in organic photovoltaics. These are complex molecules that can harvest portions of the infrared and visible light spectrum and turn the energy into sunlight. Organic photovoltaic panels don't last as long as silicon panels and 't aren't as efficient as silicon or other types of panels. But they can be transparent and flexible, allowing them to be placed unobtrusively on a lot of surfaces. Konarka also has an unobtrusive wire grid.
In the alliance, Konarka will work on the organic photovoltaics, while Air Products will try to tweak its conductive polymers (i.e. plastic that can conduct electricity) for this application.
If it works, it could be huge. But that's a big if. Konarka, which derived out of work conducted by Nobel prize winner Alan Heeger, has been around for years and raised $105 million in private investment funds. Unfortunately, it has also yet to have a breakthrough commercial application. Revenue mostly comes from grants and engineering services. The company recently got a new CEO.
Among other projects, it is also working on developing a polymer solar cell for recharging cell phones and other consumer electronics products. The idea is to integrate the solar cell. In February, Konarka investors said they hoped they would be able to announce an alliance for consumer electronics later this year.