A coating on the glass channels photons of light to a solar collector around the edge of the window, MIT electrical engineer Marc Baldo and colleagues report in Friday's edition of the journal Science.
"We think this is a practical technology for reducing the cost of solar power," Baldo said in a statement.
The glass coatings absorb incoming light and then re-emit the energy into the glass, which conducts it to solar cells. The coatings can vary from bright colors to chemicals that are mostly transparent.
The materials are not expensive and can be added to existing solar panels, the researchers said, adding that they believe the technology could find its way to the marketplace within three years.