New Bell Solar Battery Converts Sun’s Rays Into Electricity (Sep, 1954)

New Bell Solar Battery Converts Sun’s Rays Into Electricity

Bell Telephone Laboratories demonstrate new device for using power from the sun.

Great and kindly is the sun. Each day it bathes the earth in light, bringing life to everything on earth.

Scientists have long reached for the secret of the sun. For they have known that it sends us nearly as much energy daily as is contained in all known reserves of coal, oil and uranium.

If this energy could be put to use there would be enough to turn every wheel and light every lamp that mankind would ever need.

Now the dream of the ages is closer to realization. For out of the Bell Telephone Laboratories has come the Bell Solar Battery—a device to convert energy from the sun directly and efficiently into usable amounts of electricity.

Though much development remains to be done, this new battery gives a glimpse of future progress in many fields. Its use with transistors (also invented at Bell Laboratories) offers far-reaching opportunities for improvements and economies in telephone service.

A small Bell Solar Battery has shown that it can send voices over telephone wires and operate low-power radio transmitters. Made to cover a square yard, it can deliver enough power from the sun to light an ordinary reading lamp.

Great benefits for telephone users and for all mankind will come from this forward step in harnessing the limitless power of the sun.


  1. Baron Waste says: July 21, 20093:01 pm

    For further information:…

    “The first public service trial of the Bell Solar Battery began with a telephone carrier system in 1955. By 1958, the US Department of Defense realized an extremely valuable application of this device as it deployed self-sufficient power to vehicles and satellites in space…”

  2. StanFlouride says: July 21, 20095:53 pm

    Yesterday’s New Scientist had an article about the latest developments in battery technology and the direction in which they are headed in the near future:

  3. Torgo says: July 21, 20099:12 pm

    I wish there was a future to look forward to these days.

  4. Firebrand38 says: July 21, 20099:42 pm

    Oh, please!!!!

  5. jayessell says: July 21, 20099:58 pm

    Torgo, as Doc Brown said from his steam-powered time machine,
    “Your future hasn’t been written yet. No one’s has, so make it a good one.”

  6. Chuck says: July 21, 200911:43 pm

    I’ve been involved in some solar programs. As much as I love the idea and believe one day solar will be a practical way to generate electricity, right now making a solar panel uses more energy (created by coal, oil, hydroelectric, or nuclear plants) than the panel can create in it’s lifetime. Efficiencies are improving though and one day solar will really be the power generation method of choice.

  7. Dan says: July 22, 20099:19 am

    I believe that today’s most efficient solar power devices are plants. So I decided to cover every surface in my home that receives direct sun light with a plant. I get a reasonable amount of food (peas, carrots, onions, tomatoes, etc) from this approach, as well as reducing my carbon footprint.

  8. Torgo says: July 22, 200910:57 pm

    What I mean to point out is – here we are 50 years later, and we still fly around in sub-sonic passenger planes, we haven’t been to Mars, and we are still burning coal like crazy. What great advancement are we looking forward to now? Wider-screened TVs?

    We got sidetracked somewhere.

  9. rsterling78 says: July 23, 200912:52 am

    Torgo is right. The 21st century was supposed to be the future. Instead, it’s the 1970s-80s redux. iPods instead of Walkmans. Flatscreen TVs instead of CRTs. The World Wide Web instead of Bulletin Board Systems. And we walked on the Moon from 1969 – 72: a capability we no longer have. And we’re about to retire the shuttle and lose the ability for manned spaceflight.

  10. Firebrand38 says: July 23, 20098:54 am

    Nonsense and other comments. It may be hip to be cynical but you just have to look past the flying cars and such. In the case of medicine (in the last 50 years)for instance:

    1962 First oral polio vaccine (as an alternative to the injected vaccine). 1964 First vaccine for measles. 1967 First vaccine for mumps. 1967 South African heart surgeon Dr. Christiaan Barnard performs the first human heart transplant. 1970 First vaccine for rubella. 1974 First vaccine for chicken pox. 1977 First vaccine for pneumonia. 1978 First test-tube baby is born in the U.K. 1978 First vaccine for meningitis. 1980 W.H.O. (World Health Organization) announces smallpox is eradicated. 1981 First vaccine for hepatitis B. 1992 First vaccine for hepatitis A. 1998 First vaccine for lyme disease.2006 First vaccine for Human papillomavirus (HPV) 2007 Scientists discover how to use human skin cells to create embryonic stem cells.

    Source http://www.infoplease.c…

    (Of course the challenge now is to get all the stupid people to vaccinate their kids)

    Although it’s a myth that he resigned because he thought there was nothing left to invent, in 1843 commissioner of the Patent Office, Henry L. Ellsworth did say “The advancement of the arts, from year to year, taxes our credulity and seems to presage the arrival of that period when human improvement must end.” Guess he didn’t have anything to look forward to either.

  11. Toronto says: July 24, 200910:51 pm

    And then there’s computers and other uses of electronics. Sure, some are like “The King’s Toaster”, but others are pretty darned useful.

  12. Helena says: October 26, 20099:37 pm

    Extremely interesting to see that solar power has been around for so long.

    I am sceptical about why it has not been utilised or promoted as a mass-produced technology yet…

    Could it be because the energy companies had to reason to promote something that would lower people’s general bills?

  13. Firebrand38 says: October 26, 200910:05 pm

    Helena: No

  14. Toronto says: October 26, 200911:37 pm

    Has the concept of “Solar Mortgage Futures” come up here before? It’s when you buy solar panels now at the price that they’re expected to sell at in 20-25 years – buying short as it were.

    The idea is that it would encourage people to get the technology moving. Of course, if solar turns out to be a “corn fuel” that uses more energy in its creation than it converts from sunlight, someone’s going to be stuck holding the short and will have to cover it somehow.

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