Jun 02 2011

Micro-Solar Cells

Published by under Student blog entries

Photo By Lynn Johnson

A short piece in National Geographic this month (June 2011) mentioned the difficulty of obtaining electricity in Africa where even today only 10% of homes are on the grid and most of the light comes from kerosene lamps that are dangerous and expensive.  Many studies have shown that children in these homes without electricity would be able to perform much better in school if they had light in the evening to complete their schoolwork.  Also, lights can be used to prevent attacks from hyenas on homes and livestock.

One elegant solution to this problem is micro-solar technology.  These tiny panels cost between $10 and $25 and recoup their cost in five months.  They also have the ability to generate up to two watts, which is enough to power lights, and provide jobs within local African economies for salespeople.  On a larger scale, a Durham-based company called Semprius, is partnering with Siemens to produce these panels for industrial use.  Their micro-solar panels use “concentrator photovoltaic modules” which lower overall solar project costs because of their smaller size than traditional photovoltaic panels.  Semprius’ solar cells are 1200 micrometers squared and concentrate the power of the sun by 1000%, producing electricity at about 2 cents per kilowatt hour.  Micro-solar cells also reduce overall project costs because their smaller size negates the need for cooling and thermal control systems because they do not overheat.

Creative ideas like this and the Artificial Leaves that Emily mentioned are important not necessarily because they’ll save the world all in one project, but because they open the door for continued innovation.  Hopefully people will keep thinking 0ut of the box to change the way the globe produces energy, and soon.




One response so far

One Response to “Micro-Solar Cells”

  1.   sskeltonon 02 Jun 2011 at 3:51 pm

    The May 2011 National Geographic included an article about climate change and Bangladesh. Flat tropical countries with extensive coastlines are more susceptible to flooding and rising sea levels. Already, salt-water encroaches on rice patties and more land disappears, forcing people into even more crowded communities and living spaces.
    However, the article is not only gloom and doom, because it shows the ingenuity of the Bangladeshi people in finding ways to cope with these problems. The salt-invested rice patties are now shrimp farms and organic debris (leaves and sticks) is stacked to build floating gardens. My favorite resourceful idea, though, is the solar powered school boat that floats along the rising waters to educate the new innovators of Bangladesh. The school comes to the children when areas are too flooded for the children to go to the school. Also, the school reaches the children and operates on clean energy (that type of energy which isn’t contributing to the increasing floods). This is just another example of how developing countries are using innovation and clean energy.


    (The school boat is on the second set of pictures)