All eyes are on Isaac as the hurricane makes landfall along the Gulf Coast. But it was another hurricane that inspired a physics professor at the University of Houston. And his invention may keep the lights on, in the future.
Hurricane Ike slammed into Galveston and Houston in 2008. Ike was a wake up call for Seamus Curran, director of the Institute for Nano-Energy at UH. The storm left his house without energy.
"My wife asked me, ‘How long you been working in solar?'" Curran recalled. "And I told her 15 years. And she said, ‘Hmm. Why don't you make something practical that'll help us?'"
Four years later, meet the Storm Cell: a portable solar generator – about the size of a Smart Car – that turns sunlight into voltage.
The 6-panel model generates about 2 kilowatts, enough to allow a small household to limp along after a storm.
At around $19,000, it's not cheap. But Professor Curran says the longer the power is out, the more economical it gets.
"There was about 100 thousand homes in the Houston area, three months later (after Ike), did not have power," said Curran. "So you're not going to keep on refilling diesel generators because you can't afford it."
One Achilles' Heel of solar panels? You've got to keep them clean. And rainwater usually just glues down the dirt and dust.
But Seamus Curran says he's solved that problem with a coating of nano-particles which practically turn the "wet stuff" into wiper fluid.
"So if you had a panel that was dirty, look what happens to the water," he asked, tilting a coated panel to demonstrate. "It flows right off, and it'll take all that dust and dirt off it."
For more information on portable solar generators or the hydrophobic nano-particle coating, click here: