FOURTH year University of Zambia (UNZA) chemistry student, Isabel Chisulo, has developed a project of making solar panels using plastic polymers. UNZA lecturer in the school of natural sciences Steven Mudenda said this in an interview at the ongoing Zambia International Trade Fair (ZITF) in Ndola. He said the university is hoping to secure funding to commercialise the project.
Dr Mudenda said conventional solar cells are made from silicon, and that the process is expensive. “So we are making low-cost solar cells out of plastic polymers, and the process is cheaper,” he said. Dr Mudenda said plastic solar panels have an advantage over the conventional ones because the former are flexible and can be folded.
He said conventional solar panels are rigid and fragile. Dr Mudenda said the project can add value to the economy because industries can use the solar panels for irrigation and agro-processing, among others. He said the project can be an alternative in the energy mix, especially in rural areas that are off the hydro-electricity grid.
“We were the first ones in Zambia to make these cells and so we have applied for patent at PACRA,” he said.
Dr Mudenda said the school of natural sciences has also developed a micro controllerbased home automation system that can control electric appliances using a mobile phone. “If for example you switch on a geyser and by accident you forget to switch it off and you are far away from home, you can simply communicate to the system to switch off your geyser using a mobile phone,” he said.
Dr Mudenda said the project responds to the need to improve profitability and safety in industry through automation. This was developed by a fourth year physics student, David Kapena. He said though cost-effective, the system is hi-tech and can help save energy and improve efficiency and effectiveness. “For example, in the mines, if there is an accident and there is a switch that needs to be turned on or off but access is limited, this system can be used,” Dr Mudenda said.