10 May 2017
Not Ugly Anymore
As photovoltaic systems become cheaper and more powerful, they are finding wider acceptance among US homeowners. In fact, a 2012
Department of Energy study predicted that as many as
3. 8 million homes could go solar by 2020, up from just
30,000 in 2006. Despite the rosy predictions, not even
one percent are solar powered today. There are many
reasons why homeowners hesitate to join the solar club,
including high up-front costs, the expense and
dangers of battery storage, space considerations,
and so on. A seldom-mentioned consideration
is the fact that the collectors are butt-ugly black
slabs that can ruin the aesthetics of your home.
At least they were until lately.
An MIT spinoff — Sistine Solar — has
addressed the problem with its SolarSkin
product, consisting of a layer that can be
imprinted with any image and embedded
into a panel without affecting its efficiency.
To accomplish that, SolarSkin uses selective
light filtration to display an image while still
transmitting light to the underlying solar cells.
According to Sistine, “Homeowners
can match their rooftop or a grassy lawn.
Panels can also be fitted with business logos,
advertisements, or even a country’s flag.
SolarSkin systems cost about 10 percent more than
traditional panel installations, but over the life of the
system, a homeowner can still expect to save more than
In December, the company installed its first
residential panels in a 10 k W system created to match a
cedar pattern on a house in Norwell, MA. Now, it claims
to have 200 more homeowners seeking installations. If
you’re interested, just visit www.sistinesolar.com and hit
the “request a quote” button. ▲
PCB Repair System
Ahandy tool for the repair or rework of PCBs (printed circuit boards) and many other benchtop jobs would be Hunter’s ( www.hunterproducts.
com) Micro-Metallizer system. It uses disposable marker-type pens to deposit plating in the form of gold, copper,
tin, zinc, nickel, black nickel, silver, chrome-color,
rhodium, or palladium. The pens — which are disposable
and nonrefillable — are based on environmentally friendly
compounds and eliminate the need to prepare and
handle plating solutions.
According to Hunter, they are particularly well-suited
to contact finger repair, microwave component repair,
and experimental work on contact surfaces. Other
applications include instrument repair and jewelry repair
All you need to operate the benchtop system is a
power supply than can provide 12V at 0.1A, and you’re
ready to go. The system will run you $360, and plating
pens are priced from $48 for a zinc unit to $199 for 24K
or 18K gold and $269 for rhodium. ▲
CIRCUITS and DEVICES
Hunter’s Micro-Metallizer plating system.
SolarSkin matches solar panels with tile roof.