NREL.GOV — A true living laboratory, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) added a small but noticeable splash of color to its cafeteria building. Five quantum dot windows were installed this summer as a demonstration project evaluating innovative windows technologies, in collaboration with UbiQD and the Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator (IN2) program. The windows will remain installed for one year as NREL and UbiQD collect data on their performance.

The quantum dot (QD) windows are unique in the way they generate energy. The QD-laminated glass absorbs sunlight, then the glow from the QDs is trapped in the glass by total internal reflection, similar to how a fiber optic cable guides light. The light is then guided to the edges where silicon solar cells are located. This approach is called a “luminescent solar concentrator.”

The pieces of QD glass are part of an experiment to determine how windows can be used to address the need for more renewable resources in cities. The Department of Energy (DOE) Building Technologies Office (BTO) aims to transition windows from being attributed for four quads (quadrillion Btu) of energy consumption to net energy production through active and passive strategies.