Instead of searching for an outlet to keep your phone alive, what if all you needed was some sunshine? An MIT startup has created a transparent coating that transforms surfaces into solar panels.
Typically solar panels soak up photons from the sun's rays and convert them into electricity. The panels tend to be dark, because the darker a material, the more visible light it absorbs. The idea of transparent panels would usually get dismissed because they don't, by definition, absorb any visible light—it just passes right through them.
Ubiquitous Energy, a spinoff of MIT, has created a coating made of organic molecules that absorb the sun's ultraviolet and infrared rays. Since the light isn't in the visible range (for humans), the coating appears clear. The material doubles as a semiconductor: When photons hit the surface, they excite electrons that flow as an electrical current to power the device.