Researchers at the US Department of Energy’s Brookhaven and Los Alamos National Laboratories have created a new type of transparent photovoltaic film that can be spread over large areas to absorb light and create an electrical charge. The technology could lead to the development of power-generating windows and transparent solar panels.

The material consists of a semiconducting polymer doped with carbon-rich fullerenes (soccer-ball-shaped, cage-like molecules composed of 60 carbon atoms). When the polymer is applied to a surface under controlled conditions, it spreads over a large area in a repeating pattern of micron-sized hexagonal-shaped cells resembling a honeycomb

The densely packed edges of the honeycomb shape strongly absorb light and could facilitate electrical conductivity, while the centers don’t absorb much light and are transparent.

Zhihua Xu, a materials scientist at Brookhaven’s Center for Functional Nanomaterials, said that “Combining these traits and achieving large-scale patterning could enable a wide range of practical applications, such as energy-generating solar windows, transparent solar panels, and new kinds of optical displays.”