A Nepalese solar panel made from human hair? We're not convinced.
When a story seems too good to be true, it probably is. Take this one in The Daily Mail about an 18-year-old science student from a rural village in Nepal who, according to the British newspaper, invented a cheap solar panel made from human hair.
According to the story, Milan Karki, who comes from a village in eastern Nepal but attends school in Kathmandu, had the idea of replacing silicon, the rather pricey semiconductor found in conventional solar panels, with human hair.
Melanin, a pigment that gives hair its colour, is light sensitive and also acts as a type of conductor. Because hair is far cheaper than silicon the appliance is less costly.
The solar panel can charge a mobile phone or a pack of batteries capable of providing light all evening.
Milan began his quest to create electricity when he was a boy living in Khotang, a remote district of Nepal completely unconnected to electricity. According to him, villagers were skeptical of his invention at first.
'They believe in superstitions, they don't believe in science. But now they believe,' he said.
Superstitious as they may have been, the villagers were justified in their skepticism. While it's true that melanin is a pretty good conductor, human hair, no matter how dark, is most definitely not. It's no replacement for doped silicon wafers.