Sunday, September 8, 2013

Chemistry in the news

            Last year NPR’s Science Friday program did a short special on two inventors -Shawn Frayne and Alex Hornstein’s- creation called the Solar Pocket Factory. This is essentially a “microbrewery” of solar panel production. With the growing awareness of global warming and the toxic effects daily living instill on our planet, clean and “green” energy is becoming all the more necessary. I remember going to one of UNCG’s Harriet Lecture Series one semester, where they discussed the number one major contributor to pollution; not transportation, surprisingly, but buildings. And so enters the revolutionary idea to study and create architectural design in a way that minimizes the pollution to the environment and recycles energy that is available for use, ergo solar energy. So these two individuals are trying to design microsolar panels that are relatively cheap and very much reliable, and available to everyone. Traditionally microsolar panels such as the ones found in small gardening lights are manually made in China using silicon. The problem is that the price of silicon is dropping, while labor costs are going up making these panels very expensive.  So by designing a machine that will make these panels, free of manual labor, the prices can remain low and affordable. The way it works is that essentially when a photon of light hits the panel, an electron gets knocked off after which there is electric build up on the opposite side of the cell, creating a voltage. By wiring up the solettes in series one can get the voltage desired. This is an example of chemistry in the news in that by harnessing the knowledge that we have about how things in the natural world function we can orient our energy consumption towards a direction that is more cognizant to greener living!


  1. Wow, this is really neat! I had no idea that transportation was not the number one cause of pollution. It makes sense though, as we use so much excess energy in our homes and businesses. I hope that the machine that creates the solettes can make them at the lower cost, because our world will be a much better place if everyone practices green energy use.

  2. Interesting. This reminded me a little bit about what we learned in chem 2 about how batteries work.