Plant Based Solar Cell

Researcher Andreas Mershin of MIT has developed a process which extracts photosynthesizing molecules in order to produce electrons later used to create electricity. Plants use a process known as photosynthesis where chemical  energy is created using sunlight, sugar, and CO2. Energy from the Sun is absorbed by the chlorophyll, the green pigment found in plants, that helps to facilitate photosynthesis. The function of chlorophyll is to use the energy absorbed by and transferred to it to undergo a charge separation, a reaction in which the chlorophyll produces an electron. Mershin’s process extracts a molecule called photo-system I, from plant material. Photo-system I are structural proteins that help absorb light and transfer electrons. It is through these molecules that electrons are harvested to create electricity. Mershin uses stabilizing agents to facilitate this process and then places the material onto a glass substrate layered in zinc oxide nano-wires and titanium dioxide “sponge.” Sunlight is then absorbed by this material to create electricity which is then sent through the nano-wires and to a battery or other device. So by using yard waste and extracting photo system proteins followed with the stabilizing agent which you would be able to buy cheaply, you could be able to create your own solar panel of sorts. The down side to this process is the very low energy output. The main benefit of this however is that nearly anyone anywhere with access to these basic materials could create a solar panel. This is mostly important for those in developing nations where electricity is not available, and too expensive where it is. Overall this would create inexpensive and environmentally friendly solar power, in comparison to current biophotovoltaics and other solar technologies. Still in its infancy Mershin is working on improving the technology.

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