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Projects >> Education >> Re-purposed Solyndra Glass Tubes

Re-purposed Solyndra Glass Tubes - Solar Industry

Click on a small photo to see enlarged photo in new window.

cylindrical solar PV tubes
These cylindrical solar PV tubes are available for purchase.
Photo: Greg P. Smestad

Sol Ideas Technology Development is using Solyndra's bankruptcy and the media coverage surrounding it as a "teachable moment" for the Solar Energy industry. What is a failure for one photovoltaic (PV) company can be turned into an opportunity to learn more about its context in the bigger picture. Here are the main points to consider:

  • Download the 2.9 MB PDF file of the 2012 OSA presentation that describes our study of the science behind Solyndra's approach (requires Adobe Acrobat reader - See Note). It would facilitate public support for solar energy if more people understood how this approach (be it better or worse) differed from conventional, or flat-plate, PV.

  • We've used the PV modules as a teaching tool in undergraduate studies. This was presented on March 5, 2013 at the Interdisciplinary Engineering Design Education Conference (IEDEC). Download the 627K PDF paper or the 2.8 MB PDF presentation (requires Adobe Acrobat reader - See Note).
  • Consulting services are available in the field of solar photovoltaics. Dr. Smestad has a unique perspective on DOE's solar energy-related programs, since he has served for several years as a peer reviewer for grant applications, as mentioned in this letter from the Secretary of Energy (pdf file - See Note). He provided due diligence input for a variety of solar energy projects, but was not involved in reviewing the Solyndra application.

  • Several items are available to those who are seriously interested.


Greg Smestad with Solyndra PV panels
Greg P. Smestad with 3 connected
Solyndra PV panels/modules
Photo: Sol Ideas


Dr. Smestad first noticed something odd about the glass tubes at Solyndra long before the media did. He wrote this up in an article for Greentech Media. This led to his interview on CBS 5 (KPIX San Francisco). PJ Media ran a story on an art exhibit at the UC Berkeley Botanical Garden that used nearly 1,400 tubes formerly at Solyndra.

Greg Smestad, Ph.D. attended all the Solyndra auctions and purchased equipment for Sol Ideas and for Santa Clara University. This video about the University shows the solar panel that Dr. Smestad purchased, around 1 minute 30 seconds into the video. Intrigued with Solyndra's science, technology and Intellectual Property (IP), he purchased the Solyndra panels to validate a previously developed theoretical model relevant to its optics and angular response.

The working PV tubes and the glass tubes can be used in creative ways. For example, Dr. Smestad has re-purposed the glass tubes into vases. For interior design ideas on how to use them, please refer to our photo album. The bottom of the tube is plugged with a used cork from a wine bottle. When the tube is filled with water and a Lucky Bamboo stem (or other plant stem that has a similar diameter) is put in place, evaporation is minimized resulting in a long-lasting and eco-friendly display. The living Lucky Bamboo (Dracaena sanderiana) grows hydroponically, and its cylindrical geometry is similar to that of the Solyndra PV module. Coming out of the tube, it represents concerns regarding the rise of China's solar industry "growing" out of the bankruptcies of solar companies in the West. Some of the millions of leftover glass tubes have been melted down to glaze tiles. Can you think more useful applications that wouldn't require much additional transportation or energy? Could you actually carry out such a project, or have you used Solyndra's glass tubes for other purposes? Let us know by sending an email message inquiries@solideas.com.

  Click to see enlarged photo
  Click to see Solyndra Study
   Comparing a small, flat CIGS PV module to a PV tube
Comparing a small, flat CIGS PV module to a PV tube
Photo: Greg P. Smestad

Available Items

  • Each cylindrical solar photovoltaic (PV) tube is a mini-solar module in itself, generating approximately 100 Volts DC at 40 mA. Forty such 4 Watt tubes were used in a completed module. The cylindrical solar PV tubes are available for purchase. See the S.F. Chronicle blog for commentary.

  • The PV tube's outer surface is a cylindrical glass tube. Clean, unused, glass tubes were saved and are available for purchase. Contact the seller by email. They are high-quality soda lime glass tubes with outside diameters (OD) of 22 mm or 15 mm and a wall thickness of 1.48 mm. They are 104 cm and 105 cm long for the 22 mm and 15 mm OD tubes, respectively. Please see the datasheets below for complete technical details.

  • To purchase a unique and innovative jig that can safely and easily cut Solyndra's glass tubes in small quantities, please see Ephrem's Bottle Cutting web site. For an instructional video on how to cut the tubes, view Ephrem's video.

Data Sheet / Spec Sheet

Related Links

  Close-up of living Lucky Bamboo, showing roots in the glass tube
Close-up of living Lucky Bamboo,
showing roots in the glass tubes
and glass beads (left-hand tube)
Photo: Sol Ideas

Note: To read PDF files you will need the Adobe Acrobat reader, which can be downloaded free from the Adobe web site.

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