|SINGAPORE: Glass panels or windows in buildings could be integrated with solar panels in the near future. Currently, solar cell panels made of silicon are typically placed on top of the buildings.
The new solar cells are dye-sensitized solar cells, or Graetzel cells, named after its inventor Prof Michael Gratzel, who will be heading the new Centre for Nanostructured Photosystems at Nanyang Technological University.
Dr Subodh Mhaisalkar, Director of the Centre for Nanostructured Photosystems at NTU, said: "Silicon solar cells are also rigid. You cannot really integrate them very easily in windows and so on.
"These solar cells can be made readily on plastics. They can be used as bi-facial cells, so they can be used for transparent windows. They have different colours, so they can be used for building facades, or windows as well."
The search is now for Graetzel cells which are more energy efficient and cheaper to manufacture. And most importantly to last for 20 years - that is as long as silicon cell panels.
When the twin disasters struck Japan, causing a power shortage, about one hundred Graetzel powered torches were given to the Japanese. This type of solar powered cells does not need as much sunlight as typical silicon cells.
Graetzel cells could also go overseas, like China, where test-bedding opportunities abound.
Professor Freddy Boey, Deputy President and Provost of NTU, said: "Singbridge is a Guangzhou knowledge city. NTU would like to participate in it. One of the ways we can contribute is we bring technology, such as this technology - dye-sensitized method to harness solar energy."
Professor Boey estimates that two years of test-bedding is needed to assess the economic feasibility of any solar cell research in NTU. The university has been involved in solar research for the past five years.