Solar panels have become increasingly efficient, but their look hasn't dramatically improved. Researchers at the Eindhoven University of Technology, in the Netherlands, with Dutch construction company Heijmans, want to brighten them up.

Their prototype panels, which are being tested along a highway, are translucent plastic, colorful, and can help reduce noise. While the panels offer up to 8 percent efficiency compared to the 13 percent to 15 percent of typical silicon panels, their vivid appearance could encourage broader use, allowing increased adoption to spur improved performance.

spoke with Dr. Michael Debije, who is spearheading the experiment: 

Standard solar panels live on rooftops, need to tilt at a certain angle, and, most problematically, are an eyesore. “People don’t find them attractive, so it’s hard for a building designer to integrate them in a way people will accept,” he said.

The new panels may not be as efficient as standard solar panels, but the stained glass window pane look could be utilized well in public spaces, like colorful, energy-harvesting benches that double-up as charging stations in a park, or a concert stage.

Read more about the project on Wired >>