Technological innovations in solar energy generation are motivating inventors all over the globe. Solar power is in a constant state of innovation, with new advances in solar panel technology announced almost every week. In the past year alone, there have been milestones in solar efficiency, solar power storage, wearable solar tech and solar design tech. Solar energy offers a wide range of opportunities for technical innovation. Here are some of the latest solar panel technologies for 2018:
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 major 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 appearance 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 just an environmental upgrade.
Tests are underway for an exciting new PV technology – solar powered roads. The sidewalks along Route 66, America’s historic interstate highway, were selected as the testing location for solar-powered pavement tech. These roadways are heralded for their tendency to generate clean energy, but they also include LED bulbs that can light 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 devices are technically nothing new (solar-powered watches and other gadgets have been on the market for several years), there has been innovation in solar textiles. For example, tiny solar panels can now be sewn into the fabric of clothing. Wearable solar products of the past, like solar-powered watches, have normally been made with hard plastic material. The new textile concept makes it possible for solar to expand into home products like window curtains and consumer “clean gadgets” like heated car seats.
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. Prior purifier designs needed to gather UV rays and required hours of sun exposure to fully purify water. However, Stanford’s new product can access visible light and only needs a few minutes to produce reliable drinking water. As the technology behind solar purifiers improves, expect these small devices to come to market with hikers and campers as a target audience for this innovative product.
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