Solar Cell-Coated Balloons Produce Electricity
Researchers at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology have devised a way to produce electricity using helium-filled balloons made from fabric coated with photovoltaic (PV) solar cells.
One or two balloons measuring 6 ft. across could supply enough electricity for most homes, according to creator Joseph Cory, an architect pursuing his PhD in the Technion Faculty of Architecture and Town Planning, Apartment complexes and office buildings could use hundreds of balloons to supply a portion of their power needs. Other possible applications include supplying electricity to ships and homes in remote areas, to powering streetlights.
"The vertical dimension is unlimited as long as you are not based near an airport," says Cory. "If you want more electricity you just have to add another balloon."
The patented balloons are less expensive and easier to install than existing solar panels, and require very minimal ground space, which could prove beneficial in crowded urban areas. They are attached to the ground only by two cables - one to supply helium, and the other to send the electricity to a control panel. Two working models are already being used in the City of Haifa and in a desert area that is off the power grid.
Dr. Pini Gurfil of the Faculty of Aerospace Engineering is an expert in satellites who is working to ensure the stability and durability of the balloons.
"The balloons are aerodynamically designed so as to be wind resistant," says Gurfil. "Their special paraboloid shape can support both lift and drag forces exerted by winds. They can be reeled in during electrical storms, and each balloon is grounded to prevent electrical hazards.
The researchers are now looking for funding to begin the process of commercialization.