Here Comes The Sunflower: New Device To Provide Solar Power, Heat, & Clean Water

This could be a breakthrough that gets through three major modern human needs at once.  A new invention called the Sunflower could be planted in remote areas to harvest solar power, generate heat, and create drinking water, all in one shiny package.

As reported by newscientist.com, Airlight Energy of Switzerland has crafted an ingenious three-in-one solution to many of the remote world's requirements.  Standing at 10 meters high, the Sunflower is relatively unobtrusive, and can fit neatly into one shipping crate to help out humans anywhere.

Featuring a water-cooled solar panel designed by IBM, the petal-like array reflects light back onto itself, concentrating the light energy two thousand fold.  The water-cooling elements keep the photovoltaic chips at optimum operating temperature, then the sun-heated water can power a desalination station.  In coastal areas, this could use seawater (which is evaporated through a membrane three times for purity), while in other areas it could serve to purify water from lakes, rivers, or rain.  An astonishing 2,500 liters of water a day could possibly be made palatable.

The mirrors themselves are not the traditional heavy-glass variety, but rather are fabricated from, "the same material potato chip and chocolate wrapping is made of," Airlight's Ilaria Besozzi says. The mirrors are in a low-vacuum concave shape that could release to disseminate sunlight and preserve the photovoltaic chips, were the chips to reach a critical melting temperature (in event of water cooling failure.)

While power storage issues are being assessed for the Sunflower, prototypes are expected to enter experimental field tests in 2016, before hitting the market in 2017. The projected output of the Sunflower is slated to provide 12 kilowatts of electricity and 20 kilowatts of heat from 10 hours of sunlight exposure.

Whether its helping far-flung tribesmen or supporting survivalists in style, the Sunflower could light up (and heat, and hydrate) lots of lives.

Radiant!  (Image courtesy inhabitat.com.)



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