Scientists turn glass into a solar panel using just a laser

Scientists from the École Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL), together with colleagues from the Tokyo Institute of Technology, have discovered an amazing phenomenon. Brief exposure of tellurite glass to a femtosecond laser turned it into a light-sensitive semiconductor.. Thus, it is possible to produce photosensitive glass without any additional materials or effort, which scientists jokingly compared to alchemy.

Image source: EPFL

“It’s fantastic that we’re turning glass into a semiconductor on the spot using light, ” said study co-author Yves Bellouard.. “Essentially, we are transforming materials into something else, perhaps approaching the alchemist’s dream.”

Scientists were interested in the behavior of atoms in tellurite glass (TeO2) when exposed to ultrafast pulses of high-energy laser radiation. They discovered that the laser creates tiny crystals of the semiconductor materials tellurium and tellurium oxide in the thickness of the glass at the point of impact of the beam.. This means that areas treated in this way can generate electricity when exposed to daylight.

“The interesting twist to this technology is that the process does not require any additional materials. All you need is tellurite glass and a femtosecond laser to create an active photoconductive material,” the scientist added.

During the experiment, a line pattern was laser-etched onto a 1-cm disk of tellurite glass obtained from Japan.. When exposed to light from ultraviolet to visible range, the treated area generated an electric current, remaining stable for months. Similarly, light sensors and other semiconductor circuits can be created on glass using only a laser light source.

The pattern can be applied on site to already installed glass, turning it into smart glass with the necessary functionality. True, ordinary window glass is not suitable for this.. But if the technology is picked up by manufacturers, it could lead to a revolution in architecture.