Clean Power shells

Published on February 27th, 2012 | by Chris Keenan


Breaking Down Crab Shells Could Improve Solar Technology

February 27th, 2012 by  


Solar technology is continuing to expand, showing us that solar power has many, varied potential applications. From solar-powered phones, to gadget chargers, and to water heaters, there are many practical, cost-effective applications for solar power out there today. But there is still much room for improvement in solar technology, and what we are learning in many areas of science is that the answer to the problem might, in fact, lie in nature. Research and development of solar technology is a huge area of the R&D field. One of the biggest problems researchers are working on is creating a flexible panel that does not lose efficiency as it is exposed to heat.

At Kyoto University in Japan, researches have found an interesting composite that might just meet these requirements in an unlikely place — a crab shell. A crab shell was put through a number of different chemical washes and was broken down into a material called chitin. The chitin is combined with a resin to create the desired compound. This material can then be formed into a flexible sheet that could have applications in solar panels, improving the efficiency of the technology. Researchers also believe that this chitin/resin material could also have many applications within the electronics community.

The chitin/resin panel is not only flexible, allowing for, well, flexibility in the use of these panels, but it maintains its efficiency, even when hot. The traditional composite currently used in most panels has been shown to lose well over half its conductivity when heated to a certain temperature. The chitin/resin panel can withstand far higher temperatures without any reduction in efficiency. This might seem like the perfect solution to improve solar technology, however, there is a limited supply of chitin.

Researchers propose that waste from seafood factories and the use of chitin that can be derived from a number of different sources could be used to create these panels. But a major impediment is not only the finite nature of this resource, but the acidification of the ocean, which is causing big changes in the ocean environment, as well as the shells of crabs and other crustaceans. It is interesting to note that some think that the increased acidification of the oceans is at least, in part, as a result of the development of electronics and the resulting chemicals and effluent waste that often makes its way from manufacturers to the ocean.

Image Credit: Tropic~7 
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About the Author

is a green and general blog writer. He also maintains a personal cooking blog. Find Chris on Google

  • AK

    The shells you have pictured above are NOT a source of chitin. They’re made of calcium… The chitin being used in this R and D project is derived from the flexible shells of shrimp, lobster, crayfish, soft shell crabs, and the like… Your comments about ocean acidification – based on chitin – are therefore false assumptions… The supply of chitin from the global shrimp industry is huge. Furthermore, the supply of chitin is actually expanding, because aqua-farming is being mastered and the supply of farm raised shellfish is expanding rapidly. For example, Aqua Manna has a zero waste recycling system that produces 6,000 pounds of shrimp a year from four 18 ft diameter portable swimming pool tanks. This is happening on land – in FOWLER, Indiana… See: “Benton County shrimp farm one of six in the country” by Aaron Leedy.

  • Anumakonda Jagadeesh

    Wise application of Biomimicking!
    Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India

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