Did you know that melanin, the hair pigment, is sensitive to light and can be used as an electrical conductor?
Well that’s what an 18 year old recently found out in Nepal, and now uses the human hair to replace silicon in solar panels. With the price of hair being considerably cheaper than that of silicon, this young entrepreneur may have found an innovative technology to help reduce the cost of solar energy and giving thousands of people in developing countries access to affordable renewable energy.
Lately, a lot of news has emerged regarding improving the efficiency, manufacturing or price of solar panels and therefore solar energy, a few days ago we published “Any surface can be a solar panel thanks to perovskite“, A new material that makes it possible to create solar panels on cars or mobile devices, without completely flat surfaces and where the assembly of normal solar panels is extremely complicated.
Related: Transparent solar panels to generate clean energy.
Malin Karki, who is the name of the inventor, had already tried to produce cheap hydropower, but the project had become too expensive. But then Karki, who attends school in Kathmandu, started reading a book by Stephan Hawking that discussed ways to create static energy with hair. From this idea, Karki realized that melanin was a key factor in energy conversion, and that it could eventually serve as a surrogate conductor for silicon. He and 4 other classmates worked on a prototype and found they could charge a cell phone or battery for lighting.
The panels are 15cm wide and can produce a power of 9V or 18W, it costs around 30 euros. Karki believes that if they were mass produced it would cost half. In Nepal, human hair costs around 25 cents a pound and can last for several months. Hair is also fundamentally a renewable resource and can be replaced by the owner of the solar panel without a problem as it wears out in the process. This low cost, low tech device could be a revolutionary step in the production of cheap solar power.
Via Dvice & Daily mail
Images: Tom Van Cakenberghe.