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.

solar balloons

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.

The Technion-Israel Institute of Technology is Israel's leading science and technology university. Home to the country's winners of the Nobel Prize in science, it commands a worldwide reputation for its pioneering work in nanotechnology, computer science, biotechnology, water-resource management, materials engineering, aerospace and medicine. The majority of the founders and managers of Israel's high-tech companies are alumni. Based in New York City, the American Technion Society (ATS) is the leading American organization supporting higher education in Israel, with 22 offices around the country.

For more information, contact Kevin Hattori via email or call 212-407-6319.


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