Solar Power

posted Dec 22, 2017, 9:33 AM by Viktor Zólyomi
The University of Con City has developed a new low-cost solar power cell which exhibits unprecedented efficiency. The leader of the research group that designed the new power cell, Professor van der Bishop, offers a layman's explanation of the breakthrough.

`In order to shed light on how our device works, we must first discuss solar power in general,' the Professor states. `Most people don't quite realize it, but the only reason solar cells operate is due to the microorganisms that travel our way from the Sun. They're much like gerbils, only very, very small. So small, that they can ride on the rays of the Sun. We call them solar gerbils.'

The solar gerbils were first discovered by Professor van der Bishop, as documented in his highly cited research paper, `The tiny creatures who ride the sunlight across the galaxy.' Approximately one hundred billion times smaller than a water molecule, the solar gerbils ride the photons, the elementary particles in the rays of the Sun, much like a cowboy might ride a wild bull. Yet it is their mating habit which makes them truly interesting creatures.

`When a solar gerbil lands on a surface of any kind, it immediately starts looking for a mate,' Professor van der Bishop explains. `Reproduction, you see, is the only thing that interests them other than riding the sunlight. As long as there are other solar gerbils riding in on photons from the Sun, the solar gerbils that already landed will engage in the most demanding physical activity available where they are, in order to impress prospective mates. With clever engineering, we can put their competitive nature to use. This is how solar power cells work.'

Solar power cells contain tiny exercise wheels which the solar gerbils put to use the exact same way as an ordinary gerbil uses a wheel to keep itself fit in the confines of its cage. As explained in the Professor's seminal paper, `Why solar power cells are no different from wind turbines,' the physical activity of the solar gerbils produces electricity much like a water or wind turbine. The efficiency of the solar cell depends on how fast the solar gerbils run on the exercise wheels, and limits in nanoscale wheel design have put a longstanding bottleneck on device performance.

`We found a way to overcome the problem,' Professor van der Bishop says. `We realized, that if we can't make the nano exercise wheels more efficient, perhaps we can make the solar gerbils more energetic. Now consider that the solar gerbils live on the Sun, in other words, in a very warm environment. We thought, that if we were to cool off the power cells during operation, and thereby create a very cold environment for the solar gerbils, then they might run faster on the nano exercise wheels in order to keep themselves warm. And indeed, when we cooled off the solar cells, their efficiency went up by ten percent.'

The remarkable increase in power output is considered a true breakthrough mostly due to the low cost method the Professor's team devised to make the solar cells more efficient. They use ice cubes to cool the power cells, and have designed easy-to-mount ice trays which can be mounted on rooftops around solar panels. The University of Con City has named the new power cell IcePowerTM, and intends to launch it on the mass market very soon. A couple of challenges still remain to be addressed, such as the ice melting over time, but the Professor is already hard at work at perfecting his innovative solar power cell.

`We are going to design heat resistant ice cube trays to keep the ice frozen as long as possible,' he explains. `But the real challenge is doing something about the birds. Unfortunately, mounting our new solar panels on a rooftop, which is their intended use, leaves them open to attack by every bird you can think of. These dangerous flying creatures are somehow obsessed with destroying ice wherever they can find it, so we must find a way to protect IcePowerTM cells. Perhaps some kind of biological repellent might work, but we need to be sure that it won't have a harmful effect on the solar gerbils. That would be both counterproductive and environmentally irresponsible, after all.'

If you would like to know more about IcePowerTM and the groundbreaking research behind it, request a reprint of the Professor's new research paper, `Why ice cubes go with solar power like ice cream goes with the summer,' from the Department of Bullshitology - where Professor van der Bishop serves as Head of Department - at the University of Con City.