Toddler finds way to really green solar: turning green plants into photovoltaics

The sandwich of materials that is today's solar panel. Courtesy: Biosolar.
Written by Harry Fuller, Contributor

The sandwich of materials that is today's solar panel. Courtesy: Biosolar.

Biosolar's a toddler chronologically, just turned two years old in April. But they're already publicly traded and they could stand tall in the expanding field of photovolataics, making electricity from the sun. The firm is based in Santa Clarita in Southern California, so they know about sunlight. And their CEO/President, Dr. David Lee, knows a bit about the current components of standard photovoltaic panels. And he expects his company to soon begin contributing to better, greener panels.

Biosolar's goal: to replace all the pretoleum-based materials and glass coatings now used in current photovoltaic cells. Dr. Lee explained that up to 25% of the cost of any current solar panel is actually taken up with the coatings, front and back, portions not used to generate electricity. Portions that currently are made from petroleum, or glass, not renewable resources.

Lee explained that Biosolar will eventually aim to replace the top layer, typically made from glass or plastic. They'll first replace the back panel, essentially weatherproofing and electrical insulation. Also Biosolar hopes to replace the side panels that hold the photovoltaic sandwich together, and the junction box. Their first product to market should be a 100% plant-based backsheet. They have a product developed that's as tough as the current component and meets all weathering and electrical standards.

Dr. Lee was optimistic about market acceptance. Biosolar expects to make their green back panel more cheaply than the current panels. He said Biolaor has considerable interest from solar cell makers and Biosolar is now heading toward industrial scale production.

Though Biosolar so far has only developed what they expect to be a competitive back panel, they're looking to top all the current components that go around the actual solar cell. Nobody else, according to Biosolar's Lee, is currenlty developing solar components made from plant, and therefore renewable, materials.

One final note: Lee says all their plant-based materials are made 100% from plants that are not food. For obvious reason he's not divulging their research findings nor the formula for their panels backing. In August Biosolar's CTO will present the back panel at a solar conference in San Diego. More information on the new process will be forthcoming at that time. Biosolar's website says: "This forum [in August] will allow Dr. Levy to discuss in detail the various scientific breakthroughs underlying our BioBacksheet.”

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