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Keywords:

  • solar energy;
  • luminescent;
  • solar concentrator;
  • integrated photovoltaics;
  • waveguides

Abstract

Research on the luminescent solar concentrator (LSC) over the past thirty-odd years is reviewed. The LSC is a simple device at its heart, employing a polymeric or glass waveguide and luminescent molecules to generate electricity from sunlight when attached to a photovoltaic cell. The LSC has the potential to find extended use in an area traditionally difficult for effective use of regular photovoltaic panels: the built environment. The LSC is a device very flexible in its design, with a variety of possible shapes and colors. The primary challenge faced by the devices is increasing their photon-to-electron conversion efficiencies. A number of laboratories are working to improve the efficiency and lifetime of the LSC device, with the ultimate goal of commercializing the devices within a few years. The topics covered here relate to the efforts for reducing losses in these devices. These include studies of novel luminophores, including organic fluorescent dyes, inorganic phosphors, and quantum dots. Ways to limit the surface and internal losses are also discussed, including using organic and inorganic-based selective mirrors which allow sunlight in but reflect luminophore-emitted light, plasmonic structures to enhance emissions, novel photovoltaics, alignment of the luminophores to manipulate the path of the emitted light, and patterning of the dye layer to improve emission efficiency. Finally, some possible ‘glimpses of the future’ are offered, with additional research paths that could result in a device that makes solar energy a ubiquitous part of the urban setting, finding use as sound barriers, bus-stop roofs, awnings, windows, paving, or siding tiles.