This week, SolarWindow Technologies, Inc. announced an ‘invisible’ system for transporting electricity within the company’s transparent organic coatings, which are applied in thin layers onto glass surfaces. The SolarWindow™ Intra-Connection System moves electricity generated in the coating to ‘invisible wires,’ which in turn transport electricity to the edge of the glass and connect to building electrical systems.
The Intra-Connection System creates a discreet pattern of microscopic channels that are virtually invisible to the human eye at approximately 50 micometers (µm) wide. With the announcement, SolarWindow Technologies released high-power optical microscopy images to demonstrate that the channels are roughly half the width of the average human hair. The entire system is embedded in the ultra-thin layers of the company’s electricity-generating coatings; the channels allow efficient transport of electricity within them.
Currently, conventional methods produce intra-connections that can be as much as ten times thicker (up to 500 µm wide), which leads to highly visible channels that are aesthetically unappealing and yield poor electron flow, according to SolarWindow Technologies. The company also claims that these traditional approaches have used chemical or mechanical systems to form those connections, which can be slow, unreliable and prone to wear and tear.
Since the SolarWindow Intra-Connection System does not rely on chemical and mechanical systems, the company claims its proprietary approach ensures smooth, efficient pathways for the flow of electricity. At the same time, the product is expected to enable continuous, high-speed, high-volume manufacturing of SolarWindow products with ultra-fine features that are nearly invisible.
The company is currently developing its SolarWindow technology for tall towers and skyscrapers, which it says consume nearly 40 percent of America’s electrical power. There are an estimated 5 million such buildings in the U.S., and over 430 million square feet of windows are installed across the country. Globally, the flat glass market is estimated to be roughly 89 billion square feet.
“Today, we move forward in our quest to build skyscraper windows that generate vast amounts of electricity, in two important ways,” said John A. Conklin, President and CEO of SolarWindow Technologies, Inc. “First, for our customers, the aesthetic appeal of this type of electrical connection system that is practically invisible to the human eye is clear. Second, this innovation provides advantages in high-speed manufacturing that traditional approaches simply cannot compete with.”
SolarWindow technology has demonstrated the ability to deliver one-year financial payback, based on an independently-validated installation model on a 50-storey building. About a year ago, the company claimed its liquid coatings can generate up to 50 times more energy than roof-based photovoltaics (PV) – an impressive figure, especially for a transparent product. The company also offers a tool called the Proprietary Power Production & Financial Model that uses PV modeling calculations that consider buildings’ geographic location, solar radiation for flat-plate collectors, climate zone energy use, and generalized skyscraper characteristics to estimate energy production and carbon dioxide equivalents. However, the company is not yet actually selling its SolarWindow systems, as they are still in development.