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Power Science

Solar Cells — Made In a Pizza Oven 518

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the because-you-can dept.
stylemessiah writes "The winner of several Eureka Science Awards in Australia is a crafty chick who devised a way to create solar cells cheaply using a pizza oven, nail polish and an inkjet printer. This was developed to address the high cost of cells and in particular for the world's poorest regions. She wanted to give the ~2 billion people around the world who don't have electricity the gift of light and cheap energy. This could have profound (and a good profound) implications for education and health in those in the poorest regions in the world. And it all started with her parents giving her a solar energy kit when she was 10..."
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Solar Cells — Made In a Pizza Oven

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  • by DrMrLordX (559371) on Thursday August 21, 2008 @08:49AM (#24687951)
    Last time I checked, they had already figured out how to produce low-cost solar cells. They're already shipping. The tech mentioned in the article may take 5 years to fully commercialize.
  • how many (Score:5, Funny)

    by RMH101 (636144) on Thursday August 21, 2008 @08:49AM (#24687957)
    How many solar cells do you need to power a pizza oven, anyway?
    • Re:how many (Score:5, Insightful)

      by NickFortune (613926) on Thursday August 21, 2008 @09:00AM (#24688083) Homepage Journal

      How many solar cells do you need to power a pizza oven, anyway?

      It's not so much the number of cells you'd need to power the oven, that's important. It's whether or not one oven load of cells could produce more energy over the entire lifetime of the cells than the energy it took to bake them.

      I have no idea oft he numbers involved myself, but put like that, it doesn't seem nearly so ridiculous. Hell, the cells might still be worth making, even if you loose power on the deal; just think of them as very long life batteries.

      • Re:how many (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Emb3rz (1210286) on Thursday August 21, 2008 @09:10AM (#24688173) Homepage
        1. Recycle the thermal energy radiated from the oven
        2. Utilize renewable energy sources to power the oven
        3. After oven is completely 'free,' deploy cells to countries that need it

        To respond to your other point.. do you mean functional lifetime or projected lifetime? I can easily see them in their projected lifetime compensating for the energy used to bake them. However, their functional lifetime may be significantly lower than projected, either due to natural disasters or the onset of Armageddon.

        I'm being serious. Funny mods will not be appreciated. -Eric

        • However, their functional lifetime may be significantly lower than projected, either due to natural disasters or the onset of Armageddon.
          or just the fact that it is new tech that can't have had it's lifetime properly characterised yet.

          accelerated aging tests will give a rough approximation but IMO they are no substitute for real data from the field.

      • Re:how many (Score:4, Informative)

        by blueg3 (192743) on Thursday August 21, 2008 @09:50AM (#24688657)

        Unless the solar cells die out very quickly, that's pretty easy to manage. Pizza ovens hardly take an impressive amount of energy to run and benefit from scaling.

        • Re:how many (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Andy Dodd (701) <atd7@co[ ]ll.edu ['rne' in gap]> on Thursday August 21, 2008 @10:02AM (#24688807) Homepage

          In addition to that, the oven could be modified to either be fully heated or at least preheated by a solar concentrator.

          Solar thermal is a LOT cheaper and easier than solar photovoltaic. The problem is that concentrator-based designs can't work in clouds, while PV and nonconcentrated can. Nonconcentrated thermal doesn't work well for electrical energy generation. (Great for hot water heating though.)

          • Re:how many (Score:4, Funny)

            by beav007 (746004) on Thursday August 21, 2008 @10:34AM (#24689321) Journal
            Why would you want to heat hot water though? I'd rather heat cold water...
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by dpilot (134227)

              I know this is humor, but...

              You heat hot water to get hotter water, or better yet, steam. In fact one of the limiting factors in steam power isn't the hot side, but the cold side, assuming you want to have your water in a closed cycle. Once the steam has done its work, lost its energy, and condensed back into water, it's not cold water. The most visible feature of a nuclear power plant is usually the cooling tower, not the containment vessel. That tower and the energy to run it is a testimony to how imp

      • Re:how many (Score:5, Insightful)

        by peckox (1267026) on Thursday August 21, 2008 @10:15AM (#24688983)
        Do you realise that pizza oven does not need to use electricity, but wood? Using this process you basicaly can turn non-electricity house into happy solar energy house. That's why this is targeted towards the developing countries.
    • Re:how many (Score:5, Insightful)

      by sjhs (453964) * on Thursday August 21, 2008 @09:03AM (#24688105)

      How many solar cells do you need to power a pizza oven, anyway?

      How about two sticks and some kindling [wikipedia.org]?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mpeskett (1221084)
      If you're using the pizza oven to make pizza anyway, why not let the solar panel production process leech off some of the heat? Even if the process is expending energy overall, it'll be less energy than previous because you've gotten some back from solar power.
  • Yeah but... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 21, 2008 @08:50AM (#24687967)

    MacGyver would have done it with just the nail polish.

  • by alisoul (923488) on Thursday August 21, 2008 @08:54AM (#24688005)
    now we just need to figure out how to get every poor country an abundance of pizza ovens, nail polish and inkjet printers
  • Crafty chick? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by hcdejong (561314)

    Aaaaaughhhhhh!
    Condescend much?

  • Chick? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by djbckr (673156) on Thursday August 21, 2008 @08:56AM (#24688029)
    Why use a lame term like that? Women are just as smart as men and when they do something brilliant they are recognized as something special because they happen to be a woman. So we have to do something like call them "Chick" to degrade them.... Well, that's how I feel anyway. Flame away! And yes, I'm male.
    • Re:Chick? (Score:5, Funny)

      by Emb3rz (1210286) on Thursday August 21, 2008 @09:01AM (#24688093) Homepage

      And yes, I'm male.

      *checks URL* Yep, still Slashdot.

      Mod parent redundant! :P

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Actually I usually say...

      That's an amazing hypothesis miss.... Wow nice boobs! give me a twirl so I can see your rear.

      niiiiiice....

    • I don't know, it struck me as more an Aussie thing -- but then, I didn't read the summary, and I think I've actually managed to make it worse.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by db32 (862117)
      Because ultrawhiney people like you get offended by it more than many of the "chicks" being called "chicks" do and it amuses us to watch it.

      Seriously...the notion that there are bad words to use is mindboggling. Ok...so lets all get together and ban those nasty words, and then they will be replaced and other words will be used instead. I have heard the word "woman" used in a derogatory fashion more than I have heard the word "chick" used in the same way. So when will people wake up and realize that the
      • Re:Chick? (Score:5, Funny)

        by EWAdams (953502) on Thursday August 21, 2008 @11:12AM (#24689847) Homepage

        Seriously...the notion that there are bad words to use is mindboggling.

        Is that so, asshole?

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by demonbug (309515)

        Seriously...the notion that there are bad words to use is mindboggling. Ok...so lets all get together and ban those nasty words, and then they will be replaced and other words will be used instead. I have heard the word "woman" used in a derogatory fashion more than I have heard the word "chick" used in the same way.

        You make a good point, but at the same time completely miss the point of why some of us object to the use of the word "chick" in the summary. It isn't the word itself we object to (as you poin

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by db32 (862117)
          No. I don't see how that was even remotely offensive in any way shape or form. The winner of numerous science awards is a crafty chick that figured out an incredibly impressive new way of doing something using really simple pieces. Having read the summary, and the article, "crafy chick" does describe her quite accurately. She is crafty, and she is a chick (and a cute chick at that from the picture). Now if the article said "this clever bimbo" I might agree with you due to negative connotation, but I ha
    • Re:Chick? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by AP31R0N (723649) on Thursday August 21, 2008 @09:45AM (#24688589)

      Chick isn't inherently derogatory on the part of the speaker. i use it to mean 'a female who is neither a girl, nor an old lady'. My girlfriend uses it the same way. Think of it as the English equivalent to Mademoiselle. On it's own it is as derogatory as dude. If the speaker uses it as a pejorative or to be dismissive, that it the speaker, not the word. People can do that with any word. Just as anything can be taken too far or misused. Put in the hands of humans and something bad might happen. If a listener takes offense when none is intended, that's on the listener. Sometimes people LIKE to be offended. They get off on it. Some people act offended to impress their friends, or some chick at the bar. "Oh, he's a feminist".

      And it is odd that we make special note of achievement when a 'minority' does something. For some reason we care that [person] is the first [label] to do something. If a white guy does something, so what? If it is novel that someone of x group did something, like say, a child composing a concerto, then sure... mention away. Otherwise i think by now we as a culture should be over it. Never underestimate the power of guilt.

      • Re:Chick? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Chineseyes (691744) on Thursday August 21, 2008 @01:48PM (#24692329)
        And it is odd that we make special note of achievement when a 'minority' does something. For some reason we care that [person] is the first [label] to do something. If a white guy does something, so what? If it is novel that someone of x group did something, like say, a child composing a concerto, then sure... mention away. Otherwise i think by now we as a culture should be over it. Never underestimate the power of guilt. Tell that to:

        Justin Timberlake (R&B)
        Jeremy Wariner (400m Sprinter)
        Eminem (Rap)

        All of those are white men who are doing things that would be considered ordinary for a black man but is considered amazing due to the fact that they are white.

        People in general are fascinated by things that appear to be out of the ordinary even when they are not.
    • Re:Chick? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Icarium (1109647) on Thursday August 21, 2008 @09:47AM (#24688623)

      I don't know what part of the world the submitter is from, but round here (South Africa) calling someone a "chick" is no more or less offensive or degrading than calling a man a "guy". Minor cultural difference, but it does make a lot of these "OMG Sexism" comments a bit confusing.

    • Re:Chick? (Score:5, Funny)

      by kungfugleek (1314949) on Thursday August 21, 2008 @09:49AM (#24688641)
      Why, that's a terrible thing. I don't know how many time I've told those boys, never call broads chicks.

      Sorry, Al. [imdb.com]

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by j0e_average (611151)
      Not only is she a crafty chick, she's hawt! After watching the video, I don't think she'd be offended that someone notices that she's both smart and beautiful. There's not a woman on the planet that doesn't like to feel beautiful.
  • by scubamage (727538) on Thursday August 21, 2008 @08:58AM (#24688057)
    Well, she is pretty hot. I'd tap that solar energy if you know what I mean.
  • Impressive (Score:5, Insightful)

    by apodyopsis (1048476) on Thursday August 21, 2008 @09:00AM (#24688085)
    That's impressive. Though there seem to be scant details on efficiency and cost comparisons (I'm assuming this is more environmentally friendly to make as well as much cheaper).

    Of course, it would of been more impressive if full details were diclosed online for people to take advantage of.

    Is it possible to have your patent cake and eat it? The woman is clearly a brilliant engineer and deserves full credit for her work, she also states a worthwhile desire to help people across the world. So is it possible for her to obtain full commercial protection for her invention and then release all the details free for non-commercial use and reduced license fees for the third world? This would be ideal.

    After all, no technology is going to change the lifestyles of poor people if they cannot afford to buy/license it.

    On the other hand it would be unfair if she learned the Trevor Bayliss lesson the hard way - really clever little gadget swamped by low cost clones from asia from which he gained not a penny. As always I guess the big winners were the lawyers.
  • More info (Score:5, Informative)

    by hcdejong (561314) <hobbes@xmsnBLUEet.nl minus berry> on Thursday August 21, 2008 @09:01AM (#24688095)

    When asked to describe the process she says "To pattern the cell we spray on something like nail polish and then inkjet print a kind of nail polish remover which lets us etch certain parts of the wafer. This creates a metallisation pattern so we can deposit aluminium on the back surface of the solar cell and create our metal contacts to both the P and N-type silicon simultaneously using a very cheap, low temperature pizza oven! And hey presto we've created a simple, low-cost solar cell without having to use expensive high tech equipment or high temperature processes!"

    (from here [amonline.net.au])

    • Re:More info (Score:4, Informative)

      by imsabbel (611519) on Thursday August 21, 2008 @12:57PM (#24691525)

      So basically, she doesnt do jack about the real problem:
      The creation of the doted silicon base substrate.

      And its not "nail polish" or "nail polish remober", they create a liftoff mask with a chemically activated resist and sputter on aluminium contacts. (I still prefere ZnO...)

      So this is a minor improvement on a non-critical point of the whole problem...

  • by hal2814 (725639) on Thursday August 21, 2008 @09:11AM (#24688179)

    "The winner of several Eureka Science Awards in Australia is a crafty chick who devised a way to create solar cells cheaply using a pizza oven, nail polish and an inkjet printer."

    Afforable but uses an Inkjet Printer? You almost fooled me there. With the cost of ink being what it is, it'll be cheaper to just go out and buy a solar cell.

  • sterling (Score:5, Insightful)

    by eekygeeky (777557) on Thursday August 21, 2008 @09:13AM (#24688203)

    headline:

    female: "crafty chick turns out clever "invention", wants to "help people" - awwww!"

    hypothetical:

    male: "a thrifty, socially motivated boy genius has turned industry on its head with an astounding demonstration of scientific innovation and prowess beyond his years."

    • by kellyb9 (954229)

      male: "a thrifty, socially motivated dude has turned industry on its head with an astounding demonstration of scientific innovation and prowess beyond his years."

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by gunnk (463227)
      Nicely put!

      The article summary and many of the comments are just really disappointing. Did the average IQ on Slashdot drop 20 points?
  • by serps (517783) on Thursday August 21, 2008 @09:18AM (#24688253) Homepage
    For those who like to watch:

    Nominee video of Nicole Kuepper [abc.com.au]

    Vodcast of People's Choice awards ceremony [abc.com.au] (Look for ep 26, 2008)

  • by Ancient_Hacker (751168) on Thursday August 21, 2008 @09:19AM (#24688261)

    If you do a little digging, you find there is far less to this story than you might think.

    All the lady did is develop a simple way of printing electrical contacts onto the silicon surface.

    That's a mighty small part of the overall cell's cost. It's not going to bring cell prices down so the "2 billion" can afford them. heck, the top 2 billion can't afford them.

  • Not so altruistic? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by gambit3 (463693) on Thursday August 21, 2008 @09:21AM (#24688283) Homepage Journal

    First quote:
    "I love working with passionate people who want to help address climate change and poverty"

    Second quote:
    "it could take five years to commercialise the patented technology"

  • for a lot cheaper. All I need is a bunch of guys with shovels, and a boat, and we can give the world's poor good old coal. It's our environmental priorities, which we choose, that make energy more expensive. If we all could tolerate soot filled cities, like London in 1880, we could have dirt cheap heat and light and electricity just by burning coal and sometimes making steam with it for power.

    The point is, when people make announcements like this, its not to give poor people the most energy, it is rather to give them energy that is fundamentally more expensive, but to lower that window as much as possible.

    So let's not say that we are giving the poor the "cheapest energy possible", because, that's not what we're doing.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by evilviper (135110)

      If we all could tolerate soot filled cities, like London in 1880, we could have dirt cheap heat and light and electricity just by burning coal and sometimes making steam with it for power.

      You forgot about the expensive part... stringing-up power lines across all of sub-Saharan Africa to distribute the power. With distributed generation, like solar panels, you don't have to build that kind of terribly expensive infrastructure. There might be a place for such central power plants in the larger cities, but i

  • what the hell? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Pope (17780) on Thursday August 21, 2008 @09:42AM (#24688531)

    "She wanted to give the @2 billion people around the world who dont have electricity the gift of light and cheap energy."

    What does "@2 billion" mean? "At two billion?" Maybe "~2 billion?"

  • Child chemistry kits (Score:3, Interesting)

    by nurb432 (527695) on Thursday August 21, 2008 @09:55AM (#24688711) Homepage Journal

    This is why they are dangerous. Kids might grow up and invent something.

  • by alizard (107678) <alizard AT ecis DOT com> on Thursday August 21, 2008 @08:46PM (#24698475) Homepage
    Go to the patent app to see it for yourself [espacenet.com].

    For practical details like whether she used a Canon IP3/4/5000 based on ease of refilling cartridges with whatever floats her boat... let's hope Ms. Kuepper writes the article for Make I just wrote her to suggest she write.

    Getting the patent info and her e-mail address only took a few minutes of digging via google. Though I'll admit I ... never got around to telling her she's hot, my experience indicates that if one actually wants an answer to a tech question, telling someone something she already knows doesn't work well.

    Besides, given that I mentioned slashdot, it's likely as not she'll show up on this discussion somewhere to tell us WTF she actually did.

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