July 3 (UPI) -- Material engineers in China have developed window coatings that both regulate temperature and generate electricity.
Scientists have previously developed coatings with one of the two attributes, but the latest breakthrough marks the first time the abilities have been combined.
Researchers had to find a balance between the technology's three components. The coating needed to allow light for illumination to pass through, while filtering out infrared wavelengths and converting some of the solar rays into electricity.
By combining a variety of materials and compounds, scientists found a happy medium.
Instead of outfitting the window coating with transparent solar cells, researchers developed semi-transparent photovoltaics. The technology allowed scientists to harvest energy from the sun's near-infrared rays, while letting visible light through and filtering out the wavelengths responsible for heating. By filtering out infrared wavelengths, the window coating can boost the efficiency of a building's heating and cooling systems.
With just a slight improvement in the efficiency of the photovoltaic component, researchers believe their coating can reduce a building's reliance on heating and cooling systems by 50 percent.
"For this demonstration, we are not even using the best organic photovoltaics that are out there in this field," Hin-Lap Yip, a professor of materials science and engineering at the South China University of Technology, said in a news release. "Their efficiency is improving rapidly, and we expect to be able to continuously improve the performance of this unified solar-cell window film."
Scientists described their novel coating this week in the journal Joule.
"Making heat-insulating multifunctional semitransparent polymer solar cells is just the beginning of exploring new applications of organic photovoltaics," Yip said. "A version tailored for self-powered greenhouses is only one of many impactful products that we want to develop for the future."