One of the biggest challenges of the German U-Boats in WWII and something which helped the allied forces immensely was the reality that the U-Boats had to surface to recharge their batteries. This made them vulnerable. Well, fast-forward to today, most diesel fired submarines still have that challenge, and even AUVs or autonomous underwater vehicles have the same challenge. Many of these AUVs are solar powered and they have to remain right near the surface or on the surface. Well maybe that too is changing?
Gizmag technology journal had an interesting piece posted on June 12, 2012 titled; 'Special solar cells produce electricity from underwater sunlight,' by their famous writer Ben Coxworth which stated;
'The U.S. NRL developed underwater solar cells. Water absorbs much of the spectrum of sunlight - blue-green light is the last portion of the spectrum to be absorbed, and thus penetrates the farthest below the surface. Topside silicon solar cells are designed around the full solar spectrum, no use underwater. Gallium indium phosphide cells are highly efficient at converting light within the less intense blue-green wavelength into electricity - maximum depth of 30-feet provide an output of 7 watts per square meter - enough to power a device such as an environmental sensor.'
Now then, the ability to use solar panel
s underwater changes the game for so many things. The article did mention environmental sensors, and that is a perfect application for this, but it's only the beginning. Consider lobster traps for instance, the top of the lobster traps could have solar panels and send a signal when the trap was full, something that fishermen would definitely want. These solar panels can also be used by the United States Navy for their AUV's to search for, and destroy sea mines.
How about sensors that alert lifeguards when there are large sharks or predators in the water nearby? How about preventing terrorist frogman from entering naval ports, getting close to cruise ships, or attacking underwater infrastructure such as pipelines? All these applications and more are now going to be feasible, unsupervised, all run from solar panels which will be located underwater instead of above water. This also means they will not be subject to tidal surges, hurricanes, or inclement weather above the surface.
This may also help us with learning better how to create solar panels which work even under massive cloud covers, or in the rain. This is a major breakthrough, and although they will be more costly due to the materials used, this makes many applications feasible which were once impossible. Please consider all this and think on it.
However, with the increased prevalence of solar panel, it has become far more affordable.
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