A new transparent solar cell could give windows the ability to generate electricity while remaining transparent.

Paul S Weiss, Rui Zhu, Yang Yang, and colleagues at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) have developed a new kind of transparent polymer solar cell (PSC) that produces energy by absorbing mainly infrared light, making the cells 66% transparent to the human eye.

PSCs are made from plastic-like materials, are lightweight and flexible and can be produced in high volume at low cost.

The researchers are said to have made the device from a photoactive plastic that has the ability to convert infrared light into an electrical current.

A transparent conductor made of a mixture of silver nanowire and titanium-dioxide nanoparticles is another breakthrough, as it is reportedly able to replace the opaque metal electrode used in the past.

This composite electrode allows the solar cell to be fabricated economically by solution processing.

The scientists suggest the panels could be used in smart windows or portable electronics.