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design for a sustainable future

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17.03.2009 00:19 Age: 6 yrs
Category: energy

The solar design classic

The sun delivers 1.5 x 1018 kWh of energy in the form of light and heat to the earth every year. This is 15,000 times as much as the amount of primary energy we consume every year. This solar energy can be captured and partly turned into electricity without causing CO2 emissions. In the late 1970s - before the arrival of small batteries and chargers - solar powered pocket calculators appeared on the market. 

The conversion of solar energy into electricity can be achieved through photovoltaic cells. The principle of the photovoltaic effect was first discovered in 1839 and the first commercial applications appeared around 1950.

Currently we mainly think of photovoltaic technology in connection with large scale power generation for our homes and industries. Energy from solar power is still much more expensive than energy from traditional sources, if the environmental costs are not taken into account. Fluctuations in solar power generation are also problematic as a photovoltaic roof in central Europe generates five times as much power in July as it does in December. Solar power will however play a major role in the energy mix of future low carbon economies.

The major application of solar power in consumer products over the last 30 years has been the pocket calculator and the design classic in this category is the Braun Solar 4777. The product was designed by Dieter Rams and the Braun design team according to their design principles: it is simple, easy to use, iconic and designed for longevity. It was launched in 1987.

Many people argue that the Braun 4777 calculator has inspired the design of the Apple iPod. Unbelievably, Braun have now discontinued the production of solar powered pocket calculators. When will we see the first solar powered iPod or iPhone?

If you are interested in Braun Design, visit http://www.braun.com/50yearsdesign.html . On www.vitsoe.com you can find more on Dieter Rams and his design philosophy. For more information on solar energy visit the website of the International Solar Energy Society ISES - www.ises.org .