Japanese and Swiss scientists have collaborated to develop glass capable of generating an electric current when exposed to light, potentially paving the way for sustainable energy production. The researchers from the Tokyo Institute of Technology and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne utilized a femtosecond laser to etch a circuit onto the glass surface, resulting in the unexpected creation of a semiconductor crystal.

The breakthrough, reported in the U.S. science magazine Physical Review Applied in January, allows the glass to transform into an active material that can transmit electrical current, similar to a semiconductor.

Yves Bellouard, an associate professor at the Swiss school and director of its Galatea Lab, commended the technology as “surprising and innovative” for its ability to modify a material without additional additives. The collaborative project involved using tellurite glass, typically used in the production of optical fibers, provided by the Japanese institute.

An article published by Kyodo News shows a sample of tellurite glass with laser-inscribed circuits mounted on an energy-harvesting device.

Goezden Torun, a student in Bellouard’s laboratory, unintentionally created the semiconductor crystal during experiments with the femtosecond laser on tellurite glass. The laser-inscribed circuit on the glass surface then prompted the generation of an electric current in response to ultraviolet and visible light.

Tetsuo Kishi, an associate professor at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, highlighted the transformative potential of the technology, converting the glass from a passive material that merely allows light through to an active material with semiconductor-like properties. Kishi suggested the possibility of modifying the glass composition for increased practicality, making it lighter and thinner.

Electricity” by Filter Forge is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

While challenges remain, the researchers envision future applications where windows partially covered by tellurite glass, altered by femtosecond lasers, could serve as a source of clean energy, potentially reducing dependence on fossil fuels.

The development represents a promising step toward sustainable energy solutions, though practical implementation may require further refinement.

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