1.7 billion people do not have access to mains electricity either part or all of the time. Many companies are working on alternative energy solutions, which include wind and solar power solutions. A company based in Amsterdam has come up with what looks like a second generation solar cell.

Traditional solar cells deliver 0.5 volts irrespective of the size. The bigger the panel, the more current it delivers, but the voltage remains the same at half a volt. Lithium-ion batteries used in cellphone require at least 3.7 volts before they charge. So most manufacturers manually wire 8 solar cells in series so as to get just over the charging voltage needed for a mobile phone.

Intivation BV in The Netherlands says there's a better way. Instead of 8 small cells, they have put one large cell on the back of a mobile phone and added a small chip. This chip acts like a voltage inverter, stepping up the voltage from one cell from 0.5 to 5 volts. The secret is how they do this efficiently.

They explained it well at a presentation in MWC in Barcelona a few weeks back.

This reminds me of the old HT batteries that were inside valve radios back in the 1940's - Everready strung together 60 small cells to make a 90 volt DC battery to power the set. Then along came the AC transformer which did the same thing for a fraction of the cost.

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