Russian researcher invents new solar battery, gets 3yr suspended sentence

Dmitry Lopatin, a 26-year-old scientist who invented a cheap new kind of solar battery, has come across an unexpected obstacle. He was slapped with a three-year suspended jail sentence, for using banned materials in his invention.

The researcher was facing 11 years behind bars, but the prosecutor’s office dealing with the case agreed that a suspended sentence would suffice, the TASS news agency reported. 

Lopatin had been working on a new type of flexible sun cell batteries for the last three years. The advantage of these power sources is their ability to operate at sunset or in cloudy or foggy weather, while they are just one-fifth of the price of foreign prototypes. 

“I am inventing solar batteries which can be printed by using a printer-like device. It is basically foil covered by a substance which accumulates solar energy and transforms it into electricity,” Lopatin told the Gazeta.ru website.

“You do not need big panels to use these batteries as they can be applied on different surfaces – for instance on profiled metal sheets or roofing tiles,” he added.

The invention has attracted interest from a number investors, including the energy giant, Royal Dutch Shell, who saw Lopatin’s invention at the ‘Hello Tomorrow’ scientific summit, which took place in Paris in June. Dmitry was the only Russian participant at the event. 

This is not the scientist’s only invention, as he has also created a wireless battery charger for mobile phones, which can be used in public places.

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Solvent and… psychotropic ?

Lopatin got in trouble with the authorities for using a solvent called gamma-Butyrolactone in order to make his solar batteries. It turned out this was a banned substance in Russia. He had placed a mail order for the solvent from China, and he was arrested when he went to collect it from the post office in June.

The researcher had tried to use a different substance, but found that it was too toxic to work with.

“In my work I was using a solvent which is toxic and can cause cancer. That is why I tried to find a substitute. I found one via the Internet and ordered it,” he told RT.

“A month and a half later the parcel reached customs and I was called in and detained. Police launched a criminal case against me and I was interrogated. There were several court hearings. I chose to order from China because of the strict laws there. I had no idea that in China I could order a solvent which is banned in Russia.”

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Legal proceeding

On June 17, the Prikubansky district court in the southern Russian city of Krasnodar handed the scientist a three-year suspended sentence, after they found him guilty of trying to purchase a large amount of the substance, without intent to sell it on.

However, the Krasnodar Region’s attorney office says the verdict is too lenient and they are appealing the decision. They accuse Lopatin of smuggling a large amount of psychotropic drugs into the country.

“We disagree with removal of the smuggling charge and the suspended sentence. From our point of view, his actions fall under Article 229.1 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation – smuggling drugs, psychotropic substances or their precursors and equivalents,” said the attorney assistant Anton Lopatin, as cited by Rossiyskaya Gazeta.

“Of course we took into account that the defendant is a young researcher whose inventions spark interest among investors,” the attorney assistant mentioned.

Meanwhile, Dmitry Lopatin, who is of no relation to the attorney assistant, is undeterred by the attorney office’s course of action.

“Of course, we will do everything we can to assert that the case has nothing to do with smuggling. If the attorney succeeds, we will file an appeal. Honestly, I am more interested in developing the project, rather than a trial. I do not want to digress from my work,” said Dmitry Lopatin, as cited by Slon.ru.