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Neuchâtel tech firm unveils white solar panel

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Neuchâtel tech firm unveils white solar panel
Christophe Ballif, head of CSEM's solar panel team, and staff show off white panel. Photo: CSEM
21:23 CET+01:00
A non-profit technology company based in Neuchâtel has unveiled what it describes as the first white solar panel in the world.

Le Centre suisse d’electronique et de microtechnique (CSEM) on Tuesday displayed one of the "revolutionary" panels which it says uses a technology that allows different colours to be used so they can blend into a building’s exterior.

“Our revolutionary technology lets us achieve what was supposed to be impossible: white and coloured solar panels with no visible cells or connections,” the company says on its website.

“It can be applied on top of an existing module or integrated into a new module during assembly, on flat or curved surfaces,” CSEM said.

The company said it can change the colour of all existing solar panels and make them “disappear” so they become “virtually hidden energy sources”.

Staff of the 30-year-old high-tech company posed for a photo with one of the white solar panels.

The company advertises “integrated photovoltaic technologies” that allow, for example, for panels to blend in with the colour of roofing tiles.

In the case of the white panels, white modules “become an element of construction that produces electricity,” Laure-Emmanuelle Perret-Aebi, company representative is quoted as saying by the ATS news agency.

The panels consist of a solar cel that reacts to infrared light from the sun and converts it to electricity, and a film produced through nanotechnology that allows the infrared light to pass through it without reflection.

A team at CSEM has worked for two years to develop the white panel, which the company believes will find a market in the construction sector.

"This innovative technology is particularly attractive to the building industry where solar elements can blend into a building's skin and become virtually hidden energy sources," it said in a press release.

CSEM said the market currently lacks photovoltaic products specifically designed to be integrated into buildings.

White panels are particularly appealing because white surfaces stay cooler under the sun and thus can be used to reduce air conditioning costs in warm weather.

The cost of producing the panels is estimated between 150 and 200 francs per square metre, compared to between 100 and 150 francs for conventional solar panels.

The performance of the white panels is slightly lower than traditional models.

It is not clear what production plans CSEM has.

The company, launched with funding from the federal government, is now supported by Lausanne’s federal institute of technology (EPFL), the Swiss watch-making industry and various high-tech companies.

As part of its mission it aims to create start-ups, transfers technology and develops partnerships with industry.

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