Transparent solar cells could charge your devices while you play Angry Birds

Someday, your phone might be able to recharge as you use it.

A new type of coating making use of organic photovoltaic technology is making the rounds of tech shows like the ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit and the MIT Energy Conference this year. Ubiquitous Energy's ClearView Power absorbs light energy in the ultraviolet and infrared portions of the electromagnetic spectrum while letting visible light pass through. This means that the coated screen of your iPad could theoretically charge the tablet off ambient light while you use it.

Ubiquitous Energy, a spinoff of MIT RLE’s Organic and Nanostructured Electronics Group headed by Vladimir Bulovic, hopes to get its photovoltaic film up to 10 percent efficiency or higher and between 80 and 90 percent transparency.

Considering that the typical efficiency for organic photovoltaics hovers a bit below 2 percent, Ubiquitous Energy has had their work cut out for them, but according to Fraunhofer, its displays at ARPA-E showed great success.

Current incarnations of ClearView Power film leave “a very light tint” on e-ink readers, according to Fraunhofer USA, but future iterations might be able to play nice with LCDs. As for cost, durability, and other consumer concerns, organic photovoltaics are already much cheaper and hardier than their fragile crystalline counterparts.

While Ubiquitous Energy has got a ways to go before they’re ready to produce ClearView film on a commercial scale, it’s nice to dream of the day when charger cables will become obsolete. And since the company is based in far-from-tropical Boston, those of us at higher latitudes know we won’t need to go outside that often to keep our smartphones fully charged.

[Fraunhofer USAMIT Technology Review via PopSci]

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