By Megan Treacy
The Solar Pocket Factory is just what it sounds like — a small, automated machine that churns out microsolar panels to be used in a variety of applications like charging cell phones, arduinos and battery packs — but the project is much bigger than that.
Inventors Shawn Frayne and Alex Hornstein have started a Kickstarter campaign for the Solar Pocket Factory, not just to ramp up production of this cool machine, but to improve the quality of small-scale solar panels, lower their cost and to expand their reach to people across the globe. Ultimately, Frayne and Hornstein want to make it the first crowd-funded advance in clean technology.
The duo explains:
We found that about 50% of the cost of a microsolar panel is in the assembly: every part of the panel is made by hand, from breaking apart the silicon wafers into small pieces, to soldering them, gluing them onto a panel and covering them with plastic. We also found that many of these panels are flawed–about fifteen percent of the microsolar panels are rejected and thrown out because they were soldered imperfectly. Finally, the materials used are cut-rate, and will fail in a few years as UV from the sun breaks down the cheap plastic that coats the panels, even though the silicon cells trapped inside can easily work for twenty-five years.