What's new in solar technology?

Millie HennickAugust 24, 20184410

What’s new in solar technology?

At first, solar panels were not efficient and could not generate enough energy to be universally applied. Technological innovations in solar energy generation are motivating inventors all over the world. Solar power is in a constant state of innovation, with new advances in solar panel technology announced on a regular basis. In the past year, for example, there have been milestones in solar efficiency, solar power storage, wearable solar tech and solar design tech. Solar energy offers a large range of opportunities for technical innovation. Here are some of the latest solar panel technologies for 2018:

Solar skin mimics a roof’s appearance

One obstacle for the solar industry is that some homeowners consider solar panels to be an unsightly addition to their roof. Fortunately, due to another innovation, one new venture has a solution. Sistine Solar, a Boston-based design firm, is making great strides with the concept of aesthetic enhancement that allows solar panels to have a customized appearance. The MIT startup company has created a “solar skin” product that makes it possible for solar panels to mimic the look of a roof without interfering with panel efficiency or production. Sistine Solar’s skin product is expected to hit U.S. markets this year and will help to rebrand solar panels as a luxury niche product, not merely an environmental upgrade.

Solar powered roads

Tests are underway for an exciting new solar technology – solar powered roads. The sidewalks along Route 66, America’s historic highway, were selected as the testing site for solar-powered pavement tech. These roadways are heralded for their tendency to generate clean energy, but they also include LED bulbs that can illuminate roads at night and possess the thermal heating capacity to melt snow during cold weather. The next stop following sidewalk tests is to install these roadways on designated segments of Route 66.

Wearable solar device

Wearable solar devices are really nothing new (solar-powered watches and other gadgets have been on the market for several years), but there has been innovation in solar textiles. For instance, tiny solar panels can now be sewn into clothing. Wearable solar products of the past, like solar-powered watches, have typically been made with the hard plastic material. The new textile concept makes it possible for solar to expand into commonly used products like window curtains and consumer “clean gadgets” like heated car seats. 

Solar water purifiers

A new device developed by Stanford University researchers can purify water when exposed to sunlight.  The tiny tablet (about half the size of a postage stamp) is not the first solar device to filter water, but this new gadget has made major strides in efficiency compared to past inventions. Before this, purifier designs needed to gather UV rays and required hours of sun exposure to fully purify water. 

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