New Glass Could Be Future of Solar Energy

Associate professor Paul Leu is researching new technology that could improve solar panels.

Paul Leu, an associate professor in industrial engineering at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering, is working to develop improved solar panel technology that would lead to more efficient use of energy.

The problem resides in the type of glass used to make solar panels.  With current technology, this glass allows 4 percent of sunlight hitting a panel to be reflected back into the atmosphere, leading to lost energy and decreased efficiency.

The glass that Leu is developing, called fused silica glass, consists of thousands of tightly packed structures thinner than a strand of human hair.  Picture a microscopic field of clear blades of grass.  This structure allows sunlight hitting the glass to be scattered in many directions as opposed to entering head.  Scattering the light allows it to be absorbed more completely into the inner layers of the panel, and thus leads to more efficient energy conversion.

To read more about Leu’s research and how it works, click here!