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|A new type of solar panel using human
hair could provide the world with cheap, green electricity, believes
its teenage inventor.
Milan Karki, 18, who comes from a village in rural Nepal, believes
he has found the solution to the developing world's energy needs.
The young inventor says hair is easy to use as a conductor in solar
panels and could revolutionise renewable energy.
'First I wanted to provide electricity for my home, then my village.
Now I am thinking for the whole world,' said Milan, who attends
school in the capital, Kathmandu.
The hair replaces silicon, a pricey component typically used in
solar panels, and means the panels can be produced at a low cost for
those with no access to power, he explained.
In Nepal, one of the poorest countries in the world, many rural
areas lack access to electricity and even in areas connected to
power lines, users face shortages of up to 16 hours a day.
Milan and four classmates initially made the solar panel as an
experiment but the teens are convinced it has wide applicability and
'I'm trying to produce commercially and distribute to the districts.
We've already sent a couple out to the districts to test for
feasibility,' he said.
The solar panel, which produces 9 V (18 W) of energy, costs around
£23 to make from raw materials
But if they were mass-produced, Milan says they could be sold for
less than half that price, which could make them a quarter of the
price of those already on the market.
Melanin, a pigment that gives hair its colour, is light sensitive
and also acts as a type of conductor. Because hair is far cheaper
than silicon the appliance is less costly.
The solar panel can charge a mobile phone or a pack of batteries
capable of providing light all evening.
Milan began his quest to create electricity when he was a boy living
in Khotang, a remote district of Nepal completely unconnected to
electricity. According to him, villagers were skeptical of his
invention at first.
'They believe in superstitions, they don't believe in science. But
now they believe,' he said
He first tried to use water currents hydro power on a small scale,
but said the experiment became too expensive.
'I searched for new, other renewable, affordable sources. People in
these places are living the life of the stone age even in the 21st
century,' he said.
Milan, whose hero is the inventor Thomas Eddison, describes himself
as lucky because his family could afford for him to receive a proper
education while many other villagers are forced to work from an
early age. Most of those from his village are illiterate.
He was originally inspired after reading a book by physicist Stephen
Hawking, which discussed ways of creating static energy from hair.
'I realised that Melanin was one of the factors in conversion of
energy,' he said.
Half a kilo of hair can be bought for only 16p in Nepal and lasts a
few months, whereas a pack of batteries would cost 50p and last a
People can replace the hair easily themselves, says Milan, meaning
his solar panels need little servicing.
Three years after first coming up with the idea, Milan says the idea
is more important than ever because of the crucial need for
renewable energies in the face of finite power sources and global
'Slowly, natural resources are degrading so it is necessary to think
about the future," he said.
'One day we will be in a great crisis regarding this fuel so it is a
good thing to do today.
'This is an easy solution the crisis we are having today. We have
begun the long walk to save the planet.'