Seamless Cloaking of Solar Panels and Security Sensors with Optical Coating

September 18, 2018 by Paul Shepard

The Face® Companies of Norfolk, Virginia today announced the development of a revolutionary coating technology that will enable light-sensitive devices such as solar panels and photosensors to be disguised or seamlessly concealed, significantly increasing the aesthetic and economic appeal of these devices for a wide range of applications.

The “rock” pictured above is actually a covert self-powered motion and vibration sensor. Light passes through the seemingly opaque surface, both powering the device’s operation and triggering the motion sensor inside.

Durable and paper-thin, Spectral™ appears opaque when applied to any surface but actually allows 80% or more of incoming light to pass through it. It is an engineered metamaterial that is designed to reflect only specific parts of the light spectrum while transmitting all other wavelengths to the photovoltaic panel or other device on the back side of the coating.

It uniquely implements optical light scattering techniques to make the layers appear opaque to the observer, while allowing the great majority of the light energy to pass through the layer.

Spectral™ can be applied like paint in virtually any color, pattern or texture, making light-harvesting devices such as thin film photovoltaic (PV) panels essentially invisible. A solar-powered roof shingle now can look just like a conventional shingle, or a solar panel on the roof of an electric car can be visually indistinguishable from the rest of the vehicle’s surface. The coating can also be applied to the back of a smartphone case to conceal a solar charging panel.

Light-sensing security devices are another major Spectral™ application. With the innovative coating, motion detectors or photodetectors can be made to blend in with their surroundings, looking like rocks, fence posts or other common objects.

Additional benefits from Spectral™ optical coatings:

  • Infrared radiation does not contribute to the generation of electricity and can be reflected by the Spectral™ coating to reduce the thermal load on the PV and thereby improve the life of the PV panel.
  • The Spectral™ coating will be tailored to match the specific light absorption characteristics of individual PV materials, optimizing PV energy conversion.
  • Color perception of the Spectral™ coating material is independent of the viewing angle.
  • The Spectral™ coating can be able to be applied to PV panels using standard painting processes.
  • The Spectral™ coating will enhance the durability of the PV panel.

“Spectral may be one of the most significant advances to date in making solar power and light harvesting both visually attractive and economically feasible in thousands of new applications,” said Brad Face, CEO of The Face® Companies. “With this coating, both natural and artificial light harvesting can be used in virtually every building to power a wide range of electronic devices and security sensors, including those enabled by the Internet of Things.”