MINNEAPOLIS - Solar windows could be the next big thing to cut down on your energy bills.

After years of research, The University of Minnesota found the technology is one step closer to becoming a reality. Researchers say the idea has been around for decades, but there was not a way to create solar windows without using toxic materials.

"Silicon makes up the basis of all of our electronics we use today," said Samantha Ehrenberg, a U of M researcher, who showed us around the basement-level laboratory she and others work in.

She said silicon is non-toxic and abundant. Uwe Kortshagen is a professor and head of the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Minnesota.

He helped come up with the idea to test out silicon for the project, after collaborating with leaders at University of Milano-Bicocca in Italy.

Through research, the team found billions of the nanoparticles are formed and can be used to create solar windows.

"Our results are very promising in terms of how practical and easily this technology could be made," she said.

The team's hope is to develop inexpensive solar windows to create a more energy efficient world and cut down on energy consumption especially in urban areas where there is less space to install solar panels.

Kortshagen said he hopes to see solar windows on the market in three to five years. For now, there is more research to do.

"We need to make our silicon particles more efficient. We need to work on ways to make coatings of the particles on windows and we need to work to put them into different plastic materials," said Kortshagen.