Photovoltaics have been embedded inside shingles and windows, sewn into accessories, made flexible and from organic materials. But these PV-TV panels (see this month's Metropolis) are the most multi-tasking - and currently available - use of the technology I've yet to see:
As an external glaze, PV-TV allows up to 10% visible light to be transmitted through the panel. This level of light transmission is optimal to allow sufficient light in cloudy conditions while protecting against excessive solar gain and ultraviolet rays. It can provide thermal insulation and replace top lights, eaves, windows, and/or curtain walls.
As a solar photovoltaic (PV) panel, PV-TV can generate 3.8 watts of electricity per square foot, an above-average level of efficiency. Furthermore, unlike other PV systems, these panels are transparent and can be integrated into almost any part of a building without obscuring light or ruining the buildings aesthetic appearance, two downsides of conventional PV panels.
But PV-TVs most unusual feature is its ability to act as a full-color internal and external screen. A picture or advertisement projected from inside a structure can be seen within that building, with PV-TV acting as a regular display screen. On the outside of the building, the material can function as a giant billboard.
Reminds me a little of SmartWrap, which (though still under development) shares the notion of a thin composite that can perform several functions: embedding solar, OLEDs, insulation, heating and cooling technologies into a single material.
You beat me to this one. :)
What I found interesting about this as well has some relation to something I read in one of Neil Gershenfeld's books, related to some of the research being done at the M.I.T. Media Lab in the 1990s. He was discussing a newspaper that was only bought once, and through radio transmission would update the paper. They had been successful to a point with a certain kind of paper related to this.
Toss this in the mix, and you have something interestingly wonderful. You have a self powered tablet that, with a radio receiver (wireless, pick a spectrum), can not only update you on the news - properly adapted, it could also be a tool in replacing portable computing as we know it.
It's this diversity I find particularly exciting.
Hybrid vehicles with windshields of this could be a combination heads up display (HUD), while storing energy. Almost seems like something Volkswagon would adapt with the next evolution of the Bug. On sunny days, watch out for radar/laser guns. But the latter might have a problem with this.
The portable applications are quite interesting to consider. A square foot of this with a Simputer and a GPS, with some money for random electronics parts, would probably keep me busy for a few years. :)