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The solar panel that you wear?

Luminescent solar concentrators could transform harnessing the power of the sun

LSC technology

14 February 2020

Luminescent solar concentrators (LSC) offer an excellent route for the seamless integration of photovoltaic devices into the built environment. In their simplest form, LSCs consist of a plastic material host doped with luminescent species (fluorophores) like quantum dots or fluorescent dyes.

Any photon that reaches the device from the Sun, is first absorbed by the fluorophores before it is re-emitted at a lower energy but in a direction that keeps it trapped within the plastic host due to total internal reflection i.e. the same principle that is used to guide light within optical fibres.

Photons reaching the edges are finally collected by appropriately attached solar cells where they are converted into useful electricity.

Due to their intrinsic physical mechanism, LSCs are capable of concentrating both diffuse and direct sunlight with potentially high efficiency and hence, they do not need any tracking mechanisms to operate.

The absorption spectrum of the fluorophores can be tuned at will and so semi-transparent or even fully transparent devices are possible.

Therefore, LSCs are suitable as windows, building facades, sunroofs, sky domes and other architectural structures. Using flexible and mouldable plastics opens up the possibility of using LSCs in flexible electronics for consumer electronic products, wearable electronics, E-textiles, sports equipment, outdoors furniture and myriads of other applications.

The photonic innovations lab at UCL is undertaking fundamental research on Luminescent Solar Concentrators trying to address some of the inherent limitations of these devices that have prevented them from entering the market so far.

In our group, we are developing theoretical models to predict and optimise the performance of these devices, experiment with novel host and luminescent materials and we design nano-photonic structures that are able to extract energy from every single photon that reaches the device.