The World's #1 Renewable Energy Network for News, Information, and Companies.
Untitled Document

Solar Panels From Grass Clippings: Researchers Make Progress on "Biophotovoltaics"

It's chore day. You've raked the leaves, taken out the recycling, and emptied out the old junk in your garage. But wait — don't toss it all out! You have all the ingredients for your very own homemade solar system.

If new advances in “biophotovoltaics” research are any indication, you may someday be able to create your own solar “goo” from plant matter and apply it to metal or glass.

A group of researchers has found a way to break down plant matter, isolate photosynthetic molecules, and then spread those molecules on a metal or glass substrate. So theoretically, you could take a bag full of leaves and grass, pour in a mixture of chemicals to break them down, and then finish your chores by painting the liquid on your windows to produce electricity. Not bad for a day’s work.

Researchers have been working on biophotovoltaics for many years, only to be hindered by low efficiencies, rapid degradation, and difficulties in spreading the photovoltaic “goo” onto a substrate. But nine scientists have just published research on new advances that boost performance and may allow for inexpensive substrates like recycled glass and metal to be used:

To improve photovoltaic performance we increased the light absorption cross-section without changing the footprint by departing from the traditional flat electrode geometry in favor of mesoscopic, high-surface area semiconducting electrodes (TiO2 nanocrystals and ZnO nanowires). Finally, we showed how high affinity peptide motifs10 bioengineered to promote selective adsorption to specific substrates can enhance photovoltaic performance. These materials, geometries and design resulted in simple, robust biophotovoltaic devices of unprecedented performance.

In short, the researchers have created a method to stabilize the photosynthetic molecules. And by coating a substrate with titanium dioxide and zinc oxide nanowires, they can now turn any sort of glass or metal material into a working solar cell with efficiencies better than ever before.

It’s a fascinating discovery. But don’t get too excited yet. Efficiencies are still extraordinarily low — only at .01 percent. They’d need to be about 10 times that in order to power a light or charge a cell phone. So for the foreseeable future, don’t expect to be painting your house with a bag of grass clippings.

However, as research advances and performance continues to improve, MIT physicist Andreas Mershin says it could be perfect for remote applications in developing countries. 

This article was originally published on Climate Progress and was republished with permission.

Untitled Document


Welspun Commissions 52-MW Solar Power Plant in India

Vince Font Leading Indian solar developer Welspun Renewables has commissioned the construction of a massive solar plant in the state of Maharashtra. The planned 52-megawatt (MW) solar plant will be located in the city of Baramati. The...

Regional News from the July/August 2015 Digital Edition of Renewable Energy World

Renewable Energy World Editors EcoFasten Solar announced that it launched a new mounting "Rock-It System" that it would be displaying during Intersolar. Product compliance was determined through testing per UL Subject 2703, which reviews integr...

SkyPower Inks $2.2 Billion Deal for Massive Solar Power Plant in Kenya

Eric Ombok, Bloomberg Kenya’s Energy Ministry and SkyPower Global Ltd. will sign a $2.2 billion agreement on Sunday that paves the way for the Canadian company to develop a 1-gigawatt solar project in East Africa’s biggest economy. The solar pro...

Making a Match: How Solar Companies and Banks Hook Up

Jennifer Runyon The announcements are fairly frequent: SunPower Partners with Admirals Bank for $200 Million Solar Loan Program, Deutsche Bank to Lend $1 Billion for Japanese Solar Projects, Financing Partnerships Drive North Carolina's So...
I am a reporter with, a blog published by the Center for American Progress. I am former editor and producer for, where I contributed stories and hosted the Inside Renewable Energy Podcast. Keep in to...


Volume 18, Issue 4


To register for our free
e-Newsletters, subscribe today:


Tweet the Editors! @megcichon @jennrunyon



Presenting at Infocast's Utility Scale Solar Summit 2015

Oct. 21, 2015 4:30-5:15pm Albie Fong, National Director, Solar Frontier ...

Utility Scale Solar Summit 2015

Oct. 21, 2015 4:30-5:15pm Albie Fong, National Director, Solar Frontier ...

5th Annual Hydro Plant Maintenance

Join maintenance professionals to discuss the challenges in maintenance ...


Clean Energy Patents Maintain High Levels in First Quarter, Solar L...

U.S. patents for Clean Energy technologies from the first quarter of 201...

Behind Every Good Decision

When something about your business isn’t working, you set out to c...

An Overwhelming Paradox

I’m sure we’re all very familiar with the feeling of being o...


Renewable Energy: Subscribe Now

Solar Energy: Subscribe Now

Wind Energy: Subscribe Now

Geothermal Energy: Subscribe Now

Bioenergy: Subscribe Now