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A new way to produce electricity using helium balloons coated with solar cells has been devised by researchers at the Technion Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa.
Scientists from the Department of Aeronautical Engineering, Architecture and City Construction have already installed two models, one in the city and one in a desert area that lacks power.
Dr. Pini Gurfil, who heads the environmentally friendly project, said that to produce electricity from solar energy, one needs a large area - about 400 dunams - for a power station large enough for commercial use. "Therefore, the balloons should be used at a low altitude in the sky," he explained.
Gurfil and doctoral student Yossi Corrie developed a technique of using helium-filled balloons coated with solar energy cells to provide electricity. The same cable that brings the helium to the balloon will also carry the electricity to the ground.
The Technion researchers estimate that each home or apartment would need only two balloons. If they were mass produced, their cost could be reduced below the estimated $700 per square meter of today's solar cells.
The pair filed a patent application for their invention and hope the technology will compete with existing power producers.
Coated helium balloons could be used, at first, to supply electricity to ships and homes in jungles, deserts and other isolated spots off electricity grids. Beyond that, Gurfil and Corrie hope that homes in cities around the world will get their electricity from such balloons.