Happy Birthday Electric Production Solar Panels!

Don’t worry if you forgot to send your regards to solar panels, which just celebrated their 55th birthday on October 4th (there’s still time to send a belated birthday wish). The first solar panels efficient enough to power electrical equipment were officially invented in Bell Laboratory in New Jersey, while the first successful trial was performed in Georgia, fifty-five years ago. Solar panels were intended to act as a cost effective option for electricity, and to help decrease the dependency on oil.

There are two types of solar panels: electric production solar panels and water heating solar panels. The traditional version, with solar electric panels, uses the individual solar cells, which make up the panels, to convert the energy from the sun into productive electric energy.  There are records of water heating solar panels in the United States dating back to before 1900. The water panels work in a circular fashion, so that the sun initially heats the water in the panels, which can be transferred into a building through tubes, and heat the building (or be stored for later use). After the heat has been used, the water is brought back to the roof to be reheated and reused at a later time.

Not only do solar panels provide renewable energy, instead of draining fragile resources, such as oil, but they can provide electricity in areas where using high voltage cables is too challenging. Solar panels also offer electricity, without producing the large amount of pollution caused by burning fossil fuels.

Although a lot of research and development has occurred in the past fifty-five years, a reasonably priced and effective solar panel still seems just out of reach. However, here at the University of Rochester, two professors are hoping to create that solution. The Chair of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Philippe Fauchet, and chemistry professor, Lewis Rothberg, are performing research that could lead to a patent for a cheaper solar panel. They have already have obtained $250,000 in grants to begin their research, and hope to receive more as the project progresses. If all goes according to plan, the next milestone anniversary cake for solar panels could be sliced right here at UR.

6 Replies to “Happy Birthday Electric Production Solar Panels!”

  1. It has been a few years since this article was published. Im interested in hearing if these professors actually accomplished their goal.

    Regardless, solar panels have slowly become cheaper and more efficient as the years passed. I’m excited to see the future of renewable energy as its becoming a more discussed topic.

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