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New solar cell tech best suited for India
Helsinki, Jun 10 (IANS):
Published on 10 Jun. 2010 11:11 PM IST
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India will stand to significantly gain from a new technology on solar power as it is cheap, green and efficient, says Michael Gratzel, winner of this year’s Millennium Technology Prize that is often called the Nobel for innovation.
“I am particularly interested in India. Solar energy is a cheap, abundant resource that is importantly also non-toxic,” said the Swiss professor who has developed a solar cell that mimics nature, just as plants produce their own food with photosynthesis.
“Solar cooling will immensely help India as refrigeration is directly related to health issues,” Gratzel told IANS here after he received the prize at a grand ceremony presided over by Finnish President Tarja Halonen.
Solar cooling uses energy from sun rays to generate power for refrigeration.
“I had been to Coimbatore in April. In India, petrol is expensive. Solar energy is the best alternative as there is lot of sunshine in your country,” the professor said while holding the dye-sensitisised solar cell he has developed that won him the award. The Millennium Technology Prize is awarded every second year. This year’s winner got nearly $1 million for what has come to be called “Gratzel Cells”. The previous winners included inventor of the World Wide Web Tim Berners-Lee in 2004, Shuji Nakamura (blue and white LEDs) in 2006 and Robert Langer in 2008 for invention and development of innovative biomaterials.
Gratzel, director of the laboratory of photonics at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, said: “Solar cells can also provide energy for water purification. Solar panel is now already capable of charging your mobile phone.”
Pushing back his tousled hair, the professor went on: “These cells can be useful for charging batteries in hybrid cars. Not only that, in Japan they are developing street lighting that work solely on solar cells. So there is tremendous potential for it.”
He said the solar cells developed at his laboratory worked on cloudy day, without a drop in efficiency. “Clearly, the biggest advantage of our technology is: It is clean, cheap and efficient. Now the goal is: subsidy-free, commercially-viable products.”
The professor also sounded a word of caution regarding fossil fuels. “We are seeing what is happening in the Gulf of Mexico,” he said, referring to the oil spill there, which is wrecking havoc on environment. “It was a risk we can’t take. We need solar energy now.” He said the Earth’s surface receives solar radiation at an average of 81,000 terawatt. This energy, he added, exceeded the whole global energy demand by a factor of 5,000. He said he was happy to have won the award and promised to continue his research.

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