Despite a significant boom in the demand for solar power and the sophistication of photo-voltaic technology, many people still reluctant to outfit their homes with the hardware that’s needed to take advantage of this free and clean source of energy.
What’s keeping the average home or business owner from taking advantage of the lower utility bills that solar power has to offer? Well, among other things, many are turned off by the idea of plunking large, bulky, black panels on top of their home’s roof.
Thanks to a new technology being developed by scientists at Georgia Tech University, the equipment needed to use solar power might become much more subtle in the near future.
MSNBC recently reported that instead of using traditional solar panels, the Georgia Tech scientists are working to capture sunlight and turn it into electricity using fiber optics cables coated with zinc oxide, the same white compound lifeguards slather on their noses.
The fiber optic cables, each one two to three times the width of a human hair, could be installed on the roof of a house, car or any other structure with almost total invisibility.
One of the biggest hindrances to widespread use of solar power is that, while highly efficient, conventional solar cells are easily damaged, require intense heat to operate at optimum levels, and are very expensive to produce; a cost that is passed on to home and business owners who seek to use them.
Fiber optic photovoltaics, on the other hand, are relatively easy and inexpensive to produce. A solution of zinc oxide is heated to about 70 degrees Celsius (158 degrees Fahrenheit), about the same temperature as a cup of coffee. The cables are then dipped into the zinc oxide and allowed to dry.
Embed the fiber optics in the walls of a house, or the roof of a car, expose one end of the fiber to light and attach some wiring, and the electricity will start to flow.
Raymond Saluccio, CEO of New Jersey based EarthSure, recently announced his company’s plans to route light, be it from the sun or incandescent light bulbs, using fiber optic cables connected to underground solar panels.
Known as SubSolar, the plan could generate solar power 24 hours a day, seven days a week in hospitals or office buildings where the lights are always on (MSNBC).
Image by respres, used under Flickr Creative Commons License.