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UCLA researchers have created a new transparent solar cell – a breakthrough towards giving windows in homes and other buildings the ability to generate electricity while still allowing people to see outside.

The team described a new kind of polymer solar cell (PSC) that produces energy by absorbing mainly infrared light, not visible light, making the cells nearly 70 percent transparent to the human eye. They made the device from a photoactive plastic that converts infrared light into an electrical current.

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“These results open the potential for visibly transparent polymer solar cells as add-on components of portable electronics, smart windows and building-integrated photovoltaics and in other applications,” said study leader Yang Yang, a UCLA professor of materials science and engineering, who also is director of the Nano Renewable Energy Center at California NanoSystems Institute (CNSI).

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