Solar tech innovations to help create solar houses of tomorrow

Recently, Germany produced 50% of its electricity needs from solar, China has massively increased its solar capacity and the world’s largest solar farm opened near Los Angles. Solar’s growth is even outpacing that of wind.

The sun-powered energy source is definitely here to stay. Now, the challenge will be making solar an everyday power source for individuals in order for them to create off-grid power for their homes.

In California a new bill is set to allow home owners a cheaper way of installing panels on their homes.

The bill may streamline the process of installing the panels, reduce the bureaucracy and save up to $1,000 per home. The move may prove a significant incentive for home owners to install more panels around their homes.

Beyond panels that can be attached to the outside of buildings there are a huge range of technologies which are being developed that could help to revolutionise the home solar market.

We’ve rounded up some of the most promising solar developments from recent months. Many of them are still in development and need to increase their conversion efficiency but they give an indication of how solar our homes have the potential to be.

Rollable solar

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Organic solar modules, rather than silicone cells, may lead to the creation of rollable solar panels.

Panels that are created in rolls of thin glass would lead to the ability to put solar on surfaces that may only receive the sun at certain times of the year.

The researchers at Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP said their early testing is showing promising signs.


Image courtesy of Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP


Solar car

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The idea of a solar car has been around for a long time but earlier this year Ford revealed plans for a prototype solar-powered hybrid car.

It has a solar panel system on the roof which, when the car is fully powered, could power it for up to 21 miles on just the electricity.

The company said that a day of sunlight could produce the same performance as is given by their hybrid cars.


Image courtesy of Ford


Solar driveways

As one of the most successful crowd funding campaigns of all time, Solar Roadways has the public backing to be implemented as driveways leading up to our garages.

The technology, which can withhold large weights, could be used on patios, around pools and walkways at our houses.

The company is currently hiring more staff and refining its manufacturing processes as it hopes to expand further.


Solar windows

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Even the windows of our future homes could be capturing energy from the sun thanks to a breakthrough in a technology that allows us to create solar technology that is transparent.

The organic molecules from researchers at Michigan State University would capture infrared rays before channelling them to the edge of the material.

When the rays reach the edge of the material, which could be attached to glass, they are converted to electricity by thin solar cells.


Image courtesy of Michigan State University 


Spray on solar

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Researchers from the University of Sheffield have recently developed spray-on solar cells that could be used on new purchases for our homes.

New products could be covered with the solar technology to help them be more energy-efficient.

Those behind the work said they believe the technology is going to have an important role to play in the future of solar power generation.


Image courtesy of the University of Sheffield.


LG’s child-tracking wristband is a dangerous step towards normalising surveillance

LG’s new child-tracking Android wristband promises increased safety for its young wearers and peace of mind for their parents, but it could be more suited to Big Brother.

The device, called Kizon, uses location services and wi-fi to map a child’s location. This information is reported to an Android app that parents can use to track their child’s every move.

While this tracking system might seem sufficiently overbearing to some people, Kizon’s surveillance does not stop there.

The watch is equipped with a single button that the child can use to call a parent or answer incoming calls from parent-approved numbers. However, if little Johnny doesn’t answer his mother’s call within ten seconds, the device automatically connects the caller to a built-in microphone, enabling the parent to listen in on the child’s conversations and activities.

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Kizon’s battery lasts 36 hours between charges and notifies parents when it dips below 25% battery, allowing them to remind their son or daughter to recharge the device before it runs out of power.

The Kizon wristband comes in pink, blue or green and is decorated with hearts or automobiles, giving it the appearance of a fun, kid-friendly accessory. But will children appreciate, or even benefit from, the lack of privacy that Kizon entails?

For some kids, continuous surveillance from parents could cause dependency or paranoia. Perhaps worse, children could become accustomed to constantly being watched. The idea of a generation of young people who are not bothered by this kind of tracking and eavesdropping is unsettling.

Parents who equip their children with Kizon will undoubtedly have the best of intentions, and the device could be helpful in some situations. Children will be able to play and explore outside the home without their parents worrying about their location, which may give them more freedom.

However, widespread use of Kizon-like devices could result in the implementation of similar surveillance technology for other aspects of society.

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Indeed, Kizon is also being marketed for the elderly as a way for caretakers to monitor their health and whereabouts remotely. Again, this application could be beneficial to users, allowing the elderly to receive quick help or treatment in crisis situations. But with the oldest and the youngest in our society set for such tracking, the spread of surveillance does not seem so unlikely, and more dubious applications could develop.

The initial use of Kizon certainly does not spell doom for our society, but disguised in its pink hearts and blue automobiles is the potential for the dystopian future we read about and guard ourselves against.

Kizon will be available for purchase in the US and Europe in September. Snatch one up if child surveillance appeals to you.