BioSolar announces first sale of BioBacksheet—solar panel part made from cotton and beans

March 21, 2013 by Bob Yirka weblog
Credit: BioSolar

( —BioSolar Inc. maker of solar panel components has announced it has made its first sale of a new product it calls the BioBacksheet—an all natural material that can be used as a backsheet (cover) for solar panels.

Solar panels have a clear protective coating on top (called a backsheet) that protects the sensitive cells below. Generally the coating is made from non-biodegradable petroleum based plastic and glass. BioBacksheet, on the other hand is made from cotton and castor beans.

One of the downsides to using is the waste or pollution that is sometimes created in harvesting them. Solar panels, for example, harbor a whole host of toxic or non-biodegradable materials, one of which up until now, has been the backsheet. With this initial order, to a company BioSolar has declined to identify, a new era in solar power collection could be dawning—one where the materials used to harvest energy are just as clean as their source.

To make the backsheets, BioSolar processes and uses cotton rags to provide the strength needed to withstand a harsh outdoor environment. Castor beans provide resin which after processing can be used to create a material similar to nylon. When combined, the result is a very similar to current backsheets, minus the petroleum based materials. BioSolar says the backsheets are easy to make, are low cost, and are free of the toxins used to create those currently in use. They note also that the BioBacksheet has a high degree of and has electromagnetic properties equivalent to as well as the mechanical strength and stability needed for solar panel applications—all in addition to the obvious advantages of using a for manufacturing purposes, particularly as a component in a so-called "green" technology.

One snag that could hold up widespread adoption of the new biodegradable backsheet is the availability of caster seeds—they're not grown in the U.S. because in their natural state, they are toxic and highly allergenic. For that reason and others, other research efforts are currently underway to develop caster seeds that have neither negative property.

Explore further: Making solar panels with cleaner, greener technology

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1.7 / 5 (6) Mar 21, 2013
Petroleum based plastics are inferior to those made from natural sources
5 / 5 (6) Mar 21, 2013
Petroleum based plastics are inferior to those made from natural sources

Petroleum IS a natural source - take loads of plants, apply high pressure for a few million years and voila!
3 / 5 (2) Mar 21, 2013
How can something that is "biodegradable" protect something for 20 or 30 years? A protective layer is one thing that you don't want to biodegrade.
not rated yet Mar 21, 2013

Typically something has to eat biodegradable materials (bacteria, fungi, etc) to break them down; light can also break them down. I'm assuming microbes would be required for degradation otherwise it would be pretty useless as you suggested. I'd also assume there would be some property about it that prevents microbial growth and consequently degradation.

Lots of assumptions but I'd assume (:P) they would have researched its longevity before release.
not rated yet Mar 21, 2013
The direct exposure to sunlight is the anti-microbial protection. These will probably only degrade significantly after being buried.
not rated yet Mar 22, 2013
I think they say that the raw material is biodegradable. They do not tell if the new polymer is biodegradable or not.
5 / 5 (1) Mar 22, 2013
You can form very hard materials (think bones, chitinous shells, teeth, etc. ) that are biodegradeable but will last a long time. They do become biodegradeable much more quickly if you grind them up.
3 / 5 (2) Mar 22, 2013
Wow lots of hate from oilheads geokstr | azippay | dschlink | AWaB | atomsk
1 / 5 (1) Mar 25, 2013
I am not sure but I assume if we implemented a proper recycling program around the world the problem of solar panels being hazardous would be moot anyways? But has anyone here done research on solar panel material recycling. Is it viable? Or is it like recycling PVC pipe?

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