Milan Karki, an 18 year old student in Kathmandu, Nepal, believes that he has found the solution to the developing world’s energy needs in a solar panel in which the silicon is replaced by human hair.
Milan began his quest to create electricity when he was a boy living in Khotang, a remote district of Nepal which was not connected to the electricity grid. He first tried to build a micro-hydro generator but it soon became too expensive. He then read a description of how static electricity is produced when combing hair in a book by Stephen Hawking and realised that melanin, the pigment in hair, is light sensitive and a conductor of electricity.
Three years later, Milan, now at high school in Kathmandu, together with four classmates made a solar panel using hair as a class experiment and realised that the idea had wide applicability. Their solar panel produces 9 volts and 18 watts – enough to charge a mobile phone or a battery to keep a light on at night.