Kids these days–they just keep inventing new technologies to secure
our energy future. The latest comes from Milan Karki, an 18-year-old
resident of a rural village in Nepal. Karki has purportedly devised a
way to dramatically reduce the cost of solar panels by replacing
silicon components with human hair.
Silicon is used as a conductor in many solar panels, but the
material is expensive and ultimately nonrenewable. Karki discovered,
however, that melanin from hair also acts as a conductor. And as you
might imagine, human hair is much easier to obtain than silicon. In
Nepal, half a pound of hair costs just 25 cents and lasts in Karki’s
15- square inch, 18 watt solar panel for months. The panel costs a
relatively cheap $38 to produce from raw materials, and the teen
inventor claims that anyone can replace the hair.
The panel won’t revolutionize the world of solar power–a single
human hair-equipped panel can only charge a cell phone or a pack of
batteries for evening light–though it could be incredibly useful in
developing communities that lack power, especially since the panel
requires little maintenance.
That is, if the invention is real. Impressive-sounding solar
inventions fall by the wayside all the time–we haven’t heard a peep
about 12 year-old William Yuan’s ultra-efficient 3-D solar cell in a
year. And as Treehugger points out, human hair covers just a small
piece of Karki’s prototype, and it’s unlikely that the panel can
generate enough juice to charge a phone with that much surface area. We
won’t know if the panel is a hoax or not until it’s verified outside of
the UK Daily Mail, but the Mail has been right about implausible-sounding inventions before (the Beanzawave, anyone?)
[Via UK Daily Mail]
UPDATE: This site claims that the human hair story is a hoax. We’ll continue to update the story as necessary.