At some point in the future, windows may not just allow light into a building but also help power it as transparent photoelectric materials absorb and convert some of the light into electricity. Sadly some of the necessary transparent materials are still in need of development, but some exist now. Researchers at the University of Exeter have recently combined graphene and graphExeter, a material previously developed by the university, to create an ultra-lightweight photoelectric device.
Graphene is an atom-thick sheet of carbon with extraordinary electrical properties, while also being flexible and transparent. GraphExeter is comprised of sheets of graphene with ferric chloride molecules sandwiched between. It represents the best known room temperature transparent conductor, while graphene is the thinnest. Combined though they are an impressive transparent photoelectric device with efficiency comparable to that of opaque devices also contained graphene.
Of course this new photoelectric device has potential beyond windows as it could be integrated into textiles to create smart-clothing. In many ways, this and similar devices are only limited by the imagination of those creating with them.
Source: University of Exeter