‘Solar sunglasses’ demonstrated by researchers at KIT

A team of researchers at KIT has developed a pair of solar-generating glasses using colored, semi-transparent cells, which it says are based on hydrocarbons. The cells power a system which measures and displays ambient temperature and illumination intensity.

The glasses are designed as a case study, which according KIT “could pave the way for other future applications such as the integration of organic solar cells into windows or overhead glazing.” The lenses are fitted to a commercial frame and are 1.6mm thick with a weight of 6 grams – comparable to standard sunglasses. A microprocessor and two small displays are integrated into the arms.

KIT says that the glasses will also work indoors in light conditions equivalent to an office or living area, where the lenses would be still be able to generate 200 milliwatt of power, which KIT says is sufficient to operate devices such as a hearing aid or step counter.

“The solar glasses we developed are an example of how organic solar cells may be employed in applications that would not be feasible with conventional photovoltaics,” says Dominik Landerer of KIT’s Material Research Center for Energy Systems. “These solar cells are very exciting devices due to their mechanical flexibility and the opportunity to adapt their color, transparency, shape and size to the desired application.”

Dr. Alexander Colsmann, Head of Organic Photovoltaics at KIT’s light technology institute was also keen to emphasize the cell’s potential for building integrated applications (BIPV). “Since the glass facades of high-rise buildings must often be shaded,” he says. “It is an obvious option to use organic solar modules.”

Most current BIPV applications utilize amorphous silicon solar cells applied to glass. However, the potential for cells developed using organic compounds is well known and a popular area for research, earlier this week a team at MIT developed flexible solar cells to be applied to any surface, with efficiencies over 4%.