Electric windows, but different

Transforming a skyscraper into a power station: it can be done, says TU/e student Cristian Boscheri, with the semi-transparent solar cells he’s working on for his thesis. With his idea, the Italian master student of Sustainable Energy Technology reached the second round of Ideas360, an idea competition initiated by Shell. There are only two other Dutch entries that made it that far.

Boscheri will now be up against 94 other entries from around the globe. The five best ideas will be competing for the grand prize during the Shell Eco Marathon on May 15: an expedition with National Geographic. Next month will reveal whether or not the TU/e student will be one of the competitors to present his idea in Rotterdam.

The Italian, who left Milan for Eindhoven eighteen months ago to learn everything about sustainable energy generation, has been working in the group of prof.dr.ir. René Janssen since September. He started out as an intern for three months, and started working on his thesis after that. The group researches semi-transparent solar cells which get their energy from the infrared part of sunlight, while allowing the visible light to pass through. Equipping high rise with such solar cells will make them into the power stations of the future, Boscheri believes.

Technically speaking, making the see-through electrodes for the solar cells is the most challenging, he says. “You can use a wafer-thin layer of silver as an electrode. As long as it’s sufficiently thin, it’s transparent. Metal layers normally are deposited by thermal evaporation, but that’s quite time-consuming and expensive. We’re working on transparent electrodes that can processed from solution. It’s much faster and cheaper.”

Boscheri does not claim he invented the semi-transparent solar cells. “I’m working in the lab as a student. My entry is a plan to expand this concept and make it into a successful commercial product.” For the second round of Shell’s Ideas360, he shot a video in which he explains the concept. Of course, he’d love to go through to the next round. “I wonder how far I can get. Of course, winning would be great, but even if you don’t win, Shell may invest in your idea. The company even set up a special program to that end: GameChanger.”

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