18 Years Old Teenager From Nepal Makes Cheap Solar Panels with Human Hair (Maybe...)

Claims Prototype Cost Only £23
This smells like a hoax. I'm hoping it's not, but reading the Daily Mail piece, things don't quite add up... But let's start at the beginning: The story is that Milan Karki, a 18 years old from a village in rural Nepal, has invented a new type of solar panel that uses human hair - or more precisely, hair's Melanin pigment - to replace silicon in a solar panel.From the Daily Mail:

The solar panel, which produces 9 V (18 W) of energy, costs around £23 to make from raw materials.

But if they were mass-produced, Milan says they could be sold for less than half that price, which could make them a quarter of the price of those already on the market.

Melanin, a pigment that gives hair its colour, is light sensitive and also acts as a type of conductor. Because hair is far cheaper than silicon the appliance is less costly.

If true, this would mean that a mass-produced version could drive down the cost of solar power quite a bit.

Will the "solar panels made form human hair" be added to the long list of media hoaxes (like the "alien autopsy" shown here)?
Too Good to Be True?
But if you head over to the Daily Mail and look at the photos, you'll see that the hair covers only a very small surface area on the prototype. This doesn't look like it would be enough to generate the electricity they claim to generate.

In fact, if we extrapolate from that small surface area, this implies that a panel completely covered would produce much more power; possibly more than what is possible based on how much solar energy hits that surface (but I would need more data to do the math...).

I hope that it's not a hoax, but until I get confirmation from a more trusted source, I'm filing this into the "probably too good to be true" drawer...

Via DailyMail
More Solar Power
Recession Could Cut Solar Industry in Half by 2010
Surface Area Required to Power the Whole World With Solar and Wind Power
Japan's Moonshot? $21 Billion Invested in Space-Based Solar Power

Related Content on Treehugger.com