Norwegian firm Ensol and the University of Leicester have developed a spray-on coating for windows that acts as a solar cell.
The system is based on microscopic metallic nanoparticles, with diameters of approximately ten nanometers, which are are embedded in a transparent composite matrix.
It can be painted or sprayed onto any flat surfaces such as roofs or windows and reduces the transparency of the glass only slightly.
The film could also be painted onto aircraft wings without significantly affecting the vehicle’s weight.
"The work is important since the solar cells are based on a new operating principle and different to Si solar cells," said professor Chris Binns of the University of Leicester.
"Obviously some light has to be absorbed in order to generate power, but the windows would just have a slight tinting, though a transmission of only eight to ten percent is commonplace for windows in the 'sun belt' areas of the world."
Because it is a thin film that can be coated onto large areas, it could become very much cheaper than conventional devices, says professor Binns.
“Photovoltaics are destined to form a key power generating method as part of a low carbon economy and the new technology will bring that a stage closer.”
The developers believe that the PV cell technology can be refined to achieve a cell efficiency of 20 percent or greater. They say it could be commercially available by 2016.