Japan’s Hydrangea Solar Cell Is One Blooming Green Power Technology
After the earthquake and tsunami induced nuclear power plant disasters in Japan, it’s become more apparent that this important Asian country needs to turn to safer and greener power sources. One Japanese professor appears to be bringing the green power idea in a slightly over-the-top manner as he infuses ikebana and the kawaii culture in the solar power harvester device he designed. Hiroshi Segawa, a professor at the Research Centre for Advanced Science and Technology of the University of Tokyo, has created a hydrangea-inspired solar cell.
Segawa’s hydrangea solar cell appears as a beautiful mosaic that looks like a miniature stained glass depicting an ostentatious flowering plant. He named it Annabelle, after a type of white hydrangea . The overall aesthetics and colors are reflective of Japanese art and style. Annabelle is a box-shaped device that is 20 centimeters or 8 inches in width (a cube). The latticed wood box design appears to be inspired or based on the design of traditional Japanese doors.
That’s right, this hydrangea solar power generator does not really appear as a plant. Instead, it is more like a 3D decor that can be used in a sunroom or installed near windows where sunlight may hit it. Annabelle, according to Segawa, can generate enough electrical energy to a typical smartphone twice.
What’s Special about It?
Aside from the interesting design, Annabelle also comes with an aesthetically pleasing way to indicate charging and discharging. As it charges up, the petals of the hydrangea flower design become increasingly blue. As the stored power of the device is used, the eventual discharging causes the petals to turn white. This color changing is comparable to what happens in hydrangeas.
In his interview with AFP, Segawa implied that Annabelle was created to help create an appealing image for renewable or sustainable energy. Segawa mentioned how “people do not have a very good image about things related to energy.” He also pointed out how thermal power generation is associated with hot dirty coal, how solar panels are so space-demanding, and how wind power generation entails problems with bird strikes and noise. Segawa proudly touts Annabelle as a renewable energy generation device that does not harm the environment.
Moreover, Annabelle can generate electricity even under weak lighting indoors, according to Segawa. He did not demonstrate the performance of the solar panel under mild to weak lighting or under artificial lighting but he claims it should be able to generate some amount of electricity without the need to have it directly exposed under the sun. There haven’t been actual demonstrations and measurements of the power output of the device but hopefully, some will be available in the next few days.
Segawa floated the idea of “enjoyable energy”in Annabelle. He concedes that his device is unlikely going to become a replacement for the silicon-based solar panel industry but he hopes that it will inspire people to turn to “enjoyable energy,” to something that is not only functional but is also visually unobtrusive since it can blend in different settings as a decor or accent.
Aside from the hydrangea flower design, Annabelle can also be designed to feature a variety of other images. Segawa experimented with panels with French President Francois Hollande’s image as well as one that has Hatsune Miku’s (a CGI Japanese pop star) face. As Segawa said in his AFP interview, “you can make solar cells out of animated characters, portraits of real people, and lots of other stuff.” Expectedly, will no longer be limited to “Annabelle” since this name specifically refers to the hydrangea variety that inspired the prototype Segawa has been showing off.
Compared to the tofu ingredient that can improve solar panel manufacture, this hydrangea-inspired solar panel is not really that much of a technological marvel. However, it proves that solar energy or green power does not have to take the typical unappealing look of most forms of solar panels. With some creativity and technical innovations, solar energy can be harnessed using things that look beautiful, things that adorn indoor or outdoor spots in a home or commercial establishment. There are no details regarding Annabelle’s availability and prices yet. Hopefully, it will be available soon and at an affordable price.