Claes G. Granqvist, a,
Transparent conductors (TCs) have a multitude of applications for solar energy utilization and for energy savings, especially in buildings. The largest of these applications, in terms of area, make use of the fact that the TCs have low infrared emittance and hence can be used to improve the thermal properties of modern fenestration. Depending on whether the TCs are reflecting or not in the near infrared pertinent to solar irradiation, the TCs can serve in “solar control” or “low-emittance” windows. Other applications rely on the electrical conductivity of the TCs, which make them useful as current collectors in solar cells and for inserting and extracting electrical charge in electrochromic “smart windows” capable of combining energy efficiency and indoor comfort in buildings. This Review takes a “panoramic” view on TCs and discusses their properties from the perspective of the radiative properties in our ambience. This approach leads naturally to considerations of spectral selectivity, angular selectivity, and temporal variability of TCs, as covered in three subsequent sections. The spectrally selective materials are thin films based on metals (normally gold or titanium nitride) or wide band gap semiconductors with heavy doping (normally based on indium, tin, or zinc). Their applications to energy-efficient windows are covered in detail, experimentally as well as theoretically, and briefer discussions are given applications to solar cells and solar collectors. Photocatalytic properties and super-hydrophilicity are touched upon. Angular selective TCs, for which the angular properties are caused by inclined columnar nanostructures, are then covered. A discussion of TC-like materials with thermochromic and electrochromic properties follows in the final part. Detailed treatments are given for thermochromic materials based on vanadium dioxide and for electrochromic multi-layer structures (incorporating TCs as essential components). The reference list is extensive and aims at giving an easy entrance to the many varied aspects of TCs.