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09 April 2010

Britain's first solar panel uncovered after 60 years... and it still works

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The first ever solar panel has been uncovered after being hidden away forgotten in a box for 60 years - and incredibly, it STILL works

The amazing contraption is the brainchild of a British science teacher who wanted to prove to his friends that it was possible to turn sunlight into electricity.

In 1950 he spent hours slaving in his laboratory to complete his cell based on the junction semiconductor idea patented in 1946 by Russell Ohl.

The slice of scientific history was picked up by antiques dealer Fred Nickson who bought the invention from distant relative of the man who built it.

The oddity, which looks like a crystal ball, had been put in a box and forgotten but is finally on show at yesterday's Antiques for Everyone show at Birmingham's NEC.

In direct sunlight the contraption can create 1.5 volts of electricity, which is enough power to run a modern day digital watch. Mr Nickson said he was amazed a scientific object built so long ago still worked perfectly.

The first basic solar technology was built in 1883 by Charles Fritts but was found to be far too inefficient and nothing like today's models.
Russian physicist Aleksandr Stoletov developed the concept further by developing the first solar cell based on the outer photoelectric effect, a more stable and reliable cell.

But it was not until Russell Ohm patented the idea of the junction semiconductor solar cell, that the modern day solar panel was born.

It is not known whether the American actually built a version of his modern solar cell, which means this artefact is thought to be the first one.

(Daily Mail)

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