Smart Glass at Last

iStock_000017536838Medium We’ve all seen them. The semi-reflective, black grid panels set on a hillside or a rooftop. Solar panels, though an eyesore, are a renewable energy dream. It’s no secret that solar energy aims to be the primary source of power in the foreseeable future. Solar tech has become especially useful in rural areas where laying power lines is not an option. But what about urban city life? These bulky and aesthetically unappealing panels are not ideal for a city packed with skyscrapers and office buildings.

The answer – according to a relatively new and exciting company Ubiquitous Energy Inc. – is quite simple. They propose eliminating the external solar panel altogether, and instead building skyscrapers with their state-of-the-art ‘smart glass.’ In short, smart glass is coated with the trademarked Clearview Power film which absorbs UV and infrared light rays, converting them into renewable energy. By using glass coated with Clearview Power, architects are achieving a structurally sound building, as well as one that is entirely energy efficient. Ubiquitous Energy (UE) has a similar glass film in the works for mobile devices which would theoretically provide battery life ad infinitum.

We’ve been trying to harness the power of the sun for decades now, attempting to tap into it’s almost unlimited energy provisions. The rooftop solar panels we currently use are at most 20-22% efficient in their conversion of sunlight to electricity. UE hopes to create a transparent solar panel to be used in buildings, which in turn will provide a more usable surface area, although a decrease in efficiency per square foot will be noted. The see-through solar tech takes advantage of the visible and invisible light spectrum, allowing only the UV and infrared light to be absorbed. UE aims to hit efficiency rates of over 10% while maintaining a 90% transparency rate: ideal for office buildings and inner-city skyscrapers.

UE’s Clearview Power technology is a low-cost and non-toxic material that can be applied to almost any surface, generating electricity at no detriment to aesthetic appeal. In contrast to opaque photovoltaic panels which absorb ambient light at low efficiency with limited use, Clearview Power is truly ubiquitous. Though the Smart Glass film will have a 10-15% efficiency, its ability to cover a larger surface area will overcompensate for rather low conversion rates. Currently working with engineers and investors in Silicon Valley, UE hopes to have their product available in the near future, after a series of prototypes are completed.

UE is a tech startup that is definitely worth keeping on your radar. Energy – along with precious metals – is a commodity that is on the rise as we approach 2016. Clearview Power is something we will be seeing on the market quite soon; although ideally, we won’t see it at all!