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Teenager Invents Cheap Solar Panel From Human Hair 366

Posted by samzenpus
from the 50-watt-shampoo dept.
Renoise writes "Milan Karki, 18, who comes from a village in rural Nepal, believes he has found the solution to the developing world's energy needs. A solar panel made from human hair. The hair replaces silicon, a pricey component typically used in solar panels, and means the panels can be produced at a low cost for those with no access to power. The solar panel, which produces 9 volts (18 watts) of energy, costs around $38 US (£23) to make from raw materials. Gentlemen, start your beards. The future of hair farming is here!"

*

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Teenager Invents Cheap Solar Panel From Human Hair

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  • to get a haircut!

    • by iluvcapra (782887)
      I'm almost positive that a pound of human hair is a hell of a lot more expensive and harder to come by than a pound of silicon.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        I don't know about that. Any barber's dumpster will have lots of free hair for the taking.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by tool462 (677306)

          It's free for the taking because as of yet there is no value to freshly cut hair (unless it's long enough to make a wig out of). Even though this article has an overwhelming stench of bullshit, if it were true and human hair became an energy source, the price of that hair would rise dramatically. "Goldilocks" would take on a whole new meaning...

          • If the article isn't bullshit (and I'm not sure either way) then Goldilock's hair, lacking in melanin, would be particularily worthless. The best would be young hair from a black African.

      • by poetmatt (793785)

        as the reply says, barbershops have an excess of hair that already goes to other philanthropic/charitable interests, so getting some is easier to come by than what you are almost positive of. Lets just say wig shops aren't exactly in a shortage.

        • by wpiman (739077)
          All you have to do it rub a bunch of balloons against this thing and viola; free electricity.
      • by fataugie (89032)

        Not if they found a way to harvest the hair sweaters that some of the dudes I saw at the beach sporting.

      • I'm almost positive that a pound of human hair is a hell of a lot more expensive and harder to come by than a pound of silicon.

        Not true. Hair is actually already a commercial product. There is some company that makes mats out of human hair for preventing weeds from growing in your yard. They have an arrangement with barbershops in china to buy the waste hair. It wouldn't be hard to do the same for solar panels, and with almost 7 billion people on the planet, a LOT of hair is being grown daily.
        -Taylor

  • by PPH (736903) on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @01:03PM (#29367863)
    What about all of us with no hair?
    • If your just bald, then you should still be able to spare a few pubes for Mother Gaia. If you are one of the few with no hair at all, then Richard Stallman should be willing to make a donation.

    • Hey Lex, I hear Superman is looking for you.

  • So in future, we'll use shampoo that maximizes the energy production of our hair?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @01:04PM (#29367873)

    Like all technology this will be hair today and gone tomarrow

    *I'll be here all week folks!

  • Neat (Score:3, Funny)

    by Dyinobal (1427207) on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @01:04PM (#29367879)
    Beards are unsightly anyways. Yes I'm talking to you Unix gurus with huge beards. Also all the bearded ladies out there.
  • Everyday (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Monkeedude1212 (1560403) on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @01:05PM (#29367883) Journal

    The world gets a little weirder...

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by rolfwind (528248)

      Scams are older than the human species.

      The world doesn't get weirder, although I wonder if it gets more gullible...

      I think there is a 9V battery in that contraption, going by voltage reader.

      • by icebike (68054) on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @04:08PM (#29370821)

        That's what I thought too.

        The chances of this being both real AND viable if developed in the best labs of Japan, Germany, Korea, or the US would be slim to none.

        The chances of being developed by a kid from a village with no electricity are astronomically small. (Here is where I get modded troll for showing a western bias. So be it.)

        Everybody up-thread is debating ohm's law and assorted fine points while failing to notice the 800 pound gorilla looking over their shoulder. Do these people thing materials research would have missed this attribute of hair? These things are not done by chance any more like Edison tinkering in his lab and jerking whiskers out of a passing cat trying to develop a filament for a light bulb. You need a material that has certain properties, you key it into the computer and out pops all the candidates, the good, the bad, and the ridiculous, all rated on any number of scales you wish.

        A little skepticism goes a long way.

        • Re:Everyday - Scams (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Fuzzy Eric (201529) on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @08:22PM (#29373669)
          If you know where this magic software is that knows almost every useful property of almost every known material, I and my employer would pay huge amounts of money for it. Because the reality is:

          * Most materials haven't had any meaningful measurements made for any property that is actually interesting.

          * Most measurements are crap. Many published measurements are crap. The amount of practice and control necessary to make useful measurements is outlandish.

          * Published data for any but the most lavishly studied materials range wildly. What's the vapor pressure of, for example, RDX at STP. Checking the published sources, you'll find answers ranging over 6 orders of magnitude. So, ..., where does "somewhere between 1 millisquat and 1 nanosquat" fall on this sorted list?

          This idea that there's a giant database of materials properties that contains accurate and precise data for all technologically interesting properties of most materials is bunk.

          And then, ..., what's hair? Since when did hair become a specific material? Thick hair? Thin hair? Oily hair? Dry hair? Which property were you asking about? Is the hair split? Follicle attached? Old and dessicated? New and slightly less dessicated?

          Yes, I think the claim made in the article is bunk. And I bet no one here can provide a single (real) citation to a source for the current-voltage relationship for hair.

    • by Khyber (864651)

      This doesn't seem weird to me at all. I mean, if we can use our excrement for fuel for some form of power, why not use other things from our body that we generally don't have a use for?? Sounds more like a logical step, to me.

      • by ajs (35943)

        This doesn't seem weird to me at all. I mean, if we can use our excrement for fuel for some form of power, why not use other things from our body that we generally don't have a use for?? Sounds more like a logical step, to me.

        By that logic, I should expect every part of my body to be equally useful in terms of power-generation potential. In reality, that's simply not true. I hope that this guy really has discovered a use for human hair (and presumably that of some animals) in cheap production of energy, but assuming that there's a good chance this won't be reproducible is a fairly reasonable stance to take given the history of newly "discovered" forms of energy production.

        • by Khyber (864651)

          You know you could simply attach kinetic generators to your body and power many things, yes? On average, a human can produce .2kWh, that's enough to power a 13W CFL, your iPod, your Laptop, all while walking. Maybe even enough spare power left over for a few external hard drives. You'd just need to position the devices to harness kinetic energy in the right spots, at the end of limbs, at joints.

          so yes, most parts of your body (besides internal organs) can be equally useful in terms of power generation.

          Or, a

        • by mellon (7048)

          ...combined with a form of fusion, the Machines had all the power they would ever need....

  • get electrocuted when they go outside?

    • by Linker3000 (626634) on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @01:44PM (#29368565) Journal

      Their dry leather sandals prevent current flow to ground and if it's damp, the decreased resistance to ground merely lets the current drain away at a safe rate.

      Your homework is to determine the capacitance and inductance of RMS, and at what frequency he would resonate.

    • by compro01 (777531)

      Because this is replacing silicon, which is a semiconductor.

  • India (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Narpak (961733) on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @01:19PM (#29368137)
    I might be mistaken, but I seem to recall reading that a large part of the population in India donates their hair to temples/charity once a year; the hair being sold to make expensive wigs for westerners. If human hair can be used in the way suggested here then at least India could potentially access a huge amount of hair without much difficulty. Just a thought.
  • by Midnight Thunder (17205) on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @01:21PM (#29368199) Homepage Journal

    Turns out that Melanin is a semiconductor. Here are some references:

    - http://www.organicsemiconductors.com/ [organicsem...uctors.com]
    - https://www.researchgate.net/publication/16014151_Semiconductor_properties_of_natural_melanins [researchgate.net]

    While this may not be a solution for everyone, even small scale manufacture could be enough to spur research to improvement of the technology. Maybe the wool industry should start investing in this?

    • Maybe the wool industry should start investing in this?

      Why? Does the world really need another non-standard use for sheep?

      • I almost don't dare to ask, but anyway... what, in your oppinion, IS a "standard" use for sheep? I most certainly hope it's not what I think YOU think it is!
    • by Dunbal (464142)

      Maybe the wool industry should start investing in this?

            What, after centuries of trying to figure out how to get the melanin OUT of wool, you suddenly want us to put it back IN?

  • I'm disturbed by the lack of corroboration. I'm amused by the fact that this probable hoax made it into the daily mail. I'm hopeful that maybe I can make even more efficient solar panels from toenail clippings or poo smeared on aluminum foil.
  • Ridiculous! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ancient_Hacker (751168) on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @01:23PM (#29368221)

    This is really ridiculous.

    The pictures show a few strands of hair. A few questions come to mind:

    (1) Hair is not conductive. How can hair produce electricity if it can't conduct electrons worth a darn?

    (2) Hair is not polarized-- it's the same all the way through and throughout its length. How can there be any potential difference set up across something uniform?

    (3) The amount of hair shown captures maybe 0.1 cm^2 of sunlight. Even if it had 100% efficiency, that would only be 1/100th of one watt. How could it be lighting up a 5-watt fluorescent lamp with that?

    Everything about this story sounds major-league bogus.

    • by SlashDev (627697)
      Everything is a conductor to a certain extent. Hair is not a great conductor, it is a semi-conductor, which is what is needed in this case.
      • Quantitatively, hair is a very good insulator. Like many megohms per square cm. Your typical semiconductor is like ten million times better aconductor.

    • agreed (Score:2, Funny)

      by zazenation (1060442)

      This experiment is totally fake...

      He is either soaking the hairs in cold fusion liquid solvent to obtain a voltage or using a simple subminiature matter- antimatter induction pump to produce it. Who does this bozo think he's fooling???

    • by radtea (464814)

      Everything about this story sounds major-league bogus.

      Someone pointed out above that melanin is actually a known semi-conductor. I could easily see this kid having come up with a genuine working device, but the reporter insisting on showing the fake human-hairs-tacked-to-board thingy to play up the "oh look how clever the primitive people are they found something all your big-name scientists missed" aspect of the story.

      The job of a reporter is to entertain, after all, not to inform.

      So while there's a lot o

      • Re:Ridiculous! (Score:4, Informative)

        by Ancient_Hacker (751168) on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @04:17PM (#29370965)

        >Someone pointed out above that melanin is actually a known semi-conductor.

        Yes, and someone also said that saw palmetto cures cancer.

        Just because something is a semiconductor does not mean it's like, a *semiconductor*. Horse droppings are a semiconductor.

        Your typical usable-for-electronics semiconductor has an impurity level of like one part per billion. It ceases to be interesting if the impurity level get much higher than this.

        Please posit how this kid has purified melanin to one part per billion, then doped it with the right miniscule proportion of carriers.

        Then we can talk about semiconductors.

         

    • I agree that it sounds seriously bogus, and the board with paper clips and hairs between them isn't an 18 watt panel unless the hair is on fire. The big question would be whether anyone could duplicate getting power out of a single hair. This should be an easy experiment with a digital voltmeter. But there is no information on what would be the required first step, polarizing the hair.
    • Polar Bear Hair? (Score:3, Informative)

      by LoverOfJoy (820058)
      "There exists, however, a natural collector that converts part of the solar-radiation spectrum into heat with an efficiency exceeding 95 percent. The remarkable device is polar bear fur."

      "Polar bear hair may be a natural fiber-optic cable. A cross section (right) shows a solid shaft surrounding a reticulated core. The shaft apparently can trap ultraviolet light and aim it toward the skin (above)."

      "Grojean believes the hair shaft somehow conducts scattered radiation to the surface of the skin (which is
  • by Anonymous Coward

    If the Daily Mail headline is "Could X do/cause/be Y?", the answer is almost certainly "No".

  • I'm very skeptical about this. Currently, lab developed polymer solar cells have about a 5% energy conversion efficiency. Let's assume that this kid made a solar cell that is twice that efficient, so 10%.

    Let's say sun irradiance is 1000 Watts/meter^2, which is also pretty high. And lets say the solar cell is a .1 meter^2. This would make the optimal wattage for his solar cell:

    Irradiance * Size of Cell * Efficiency = Wattage
    1000 W/m2*.1 m2 *.1 = 10 Watts

    Even in superoptimal situations, there is
    • by Bakkster (1529253)

      The article claims the panel is 18W, not the individual cells making up the panel. Assuming the panel is about a square meter, bright sunlight of 1000W/m/m, and 2% efficient, that works out to 20W for the panel. If the panel were made of 64 cells (8x8) then each cell would be 0.3W.

      Still not sure this is possible with hair, but the numbers are reasonable for photovoltaics.

  • by gadget junkie (618542) <gbponz@libero.it> on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @01:49PM (#29368641) Journal

    .....We can at last import energy from kazhakistan!!!!!! [youtube.com]
  • Dilemmas! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Just Some Guy (3352) <kirk+slashdot@strauser.com> on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @02:32PM (#29369241) Homepage Journal

    I'd like free electricity, but I really hoped to write a successful computer language some day. What to do?

  • Alright, so everyone's probably been right so far that stringing a few strands of hair across a grid of thumbtacks probably won't light a CFL. Here's what probably happened: the kid made a device and showed that it can collect sunlight. Using a few rudimentary calculations, he scaled up his results to show that a working model with about a pound of hair would give something on the order of 18 watts of power (in full sunlight). The Daily Mail pounced on it because they don't know any better. And voila!

  • I think (Score:5, Funny)

    by jcochran (309950) on Wednesday September 09, 2009 @03:10PM (#29369893)

    this article was either posted 161 days too late, or 204 days too early. Not certain which.

  • So the old joke about a bald spot being a solar panel for a sex machine was completely wrong.

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