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

Leafy Green Power: Spinach is Key Ingredient in Solar Breakthrough

This month, a breakthrough at Vanderbilt University brought us closer to achieving solar power efficiencies on par with plants.

By adding the photosynthetic protein in spinach to silicon, researchers created biohybrid solar cells with much greater power output than previous designs.

The Biohybrid Breakthrough

Biohybrid solar cells are part biological molecule, part electrode material.  “In our case, those molecules are Photosystem I proteins, which drive photosynthesis in green plants,” said Kane Jennings, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at Vanderbilt, who led the study with David Cliffel, an associate professor of chemistry.

The research on using Photostream 1 (PS1) proteins in solar cells began over 40 years ago, when scientists discovered PS1 proteins could function even after they were removed from plants. Because PS1 converts sunlight into energy with nearly 100 percent efficiency, research groups began working with the protein in hopes of creating more efficient solar cells.

The results of this initial research were cells that couldn’t produce very much electrical current, and began to deteriorate after only a few weeks.

The latest advancement addresses both of these problems. The new and improved cells can produce almost a milliamp of current per square centimeter at 0.3 volts – nearly two and a half times more electricity than previously developed biohybrid cells.

In addition, the Vanderbilt researchers have been working for years to improve the cell’s longevity; back in 2010, the team was able to keep a PS1 cell working for nine months with no deterioration in performance.

Cheaper, Cleaner Solar

Commercially viable biohybrid solar cells would be a manifold breakthrough for solar power; their key components are abundant and renewable, so producing them would cost less and be better for the environment than traditional solar cells.

Furthermore, by harnessing the photosynthesizing abilities of plants, biohybrid cells could also greatly increase solar panel efficiency.

However, the cells still have far to progress before they can compete with established solar technology.

“Currently, these biohybrid cells are not competitive with traditional solar cells,” Jennings explains. “They represent a significantly less mature technology, less than ten years of history for these cells versus fifty years for traditional silicon photovoltaics.”

Jennings emphasizes the need for more research into biohybrids, which “could be much cheaper and greener to produce than traditional solar cells because the key biological components are vastly abundant and renewable in nature.”

The research is currently being carried out, and groups like the Environmental Protection Agency are starting to take notice of the potential. Earlier this year, a group of Vanderbilt chemical engineering seniors won three awards for the cells at the EPA’s National Sustainable Design Exposition in Washington, D.C. The demonstration earned them a grant to develop the concept further.

Through funding by the EPA and the National Science Foundation, the team is now working to further optimize the cells to maximize power output, and to “take this published design from the laboratory scale to a more technologically relevant size scale,” says Jennings.

This article was originally published on ecomagination and was republished with permission.

Untitled Document

RELATED ARTICLES

Stolen Solar Panels and Sabotage A Challenge for Powering India With Renewable Energy

Anindya Upadhyay, Bloomberg Disappointment spread across Tarun Singh’s face when he saw that parts of his solar power microgrid in eastern India’...

States Already Seek To Delay Clean Power Plan

Andrew Harris, Bloomberg Fifteen states led by coal-rich West Virginia asked a federal court to stall Obama administration rules intended to c...

Suntech Parent Company Buys Majority Share of US-based Suniva

Ehren Goossens Shunfeng International Clean Energy Ltd., the Hong Kong-based solar company controlled by billionaire Zheng Jianming,...

Sunrise in Pakistan as the Country Delves into Solar PV

Robert Harker Pakistan has joined the list of countries that are exploring solar power as a means to bridge critical energy generat...

PRESS RELEASES

Intersolar AWARD „Solar Projects in India“ – Applications being accepted until September 18

The Intersolar AWARD in the category Solar Projects in India honors projects in the fie...

OFS Announces Commercial Availability of InvisiLight® MDU Optical Solution for Multiple Dwelling Units

OFS, a leading-edge designer, manufacturer and supplier of innovative fiber optic netwo...

New local energy partnership brings innovative solar tracker to Washington State

A new partnership will bring the innovative AllEarth Solar Tracker solar electric syste...

Free ImagineSolar Online Course Demonstration

ImagineSolar will be holding another live demonstration of PV250e: Solar PV Economics a...

FEATURED BLOGS

Cronimet / THEnergy study: In solar for mines size does not always matter - Reducing CAPEX with energy efficiency and load shifting

Munich, September 2015. Mining companies are constantly gaining interest in solar solutions because frequently solar ...

Shedding Some Light on a Taxing Situation for Community-Shared Solar

For renters and for property owners with inadequate roof space, the many benefits of solar electricity may seem out o...

NATiVE Recognized for Excellence at 2015 Greater Austin Business Awards

NATiVE Recognized for Excellence at 2015 Greater Austin Business Awards NEWS RELEASE AUSTIN, Texas – Aug. 27...

Solar Energy Means Jobs, Savings, and a Low-Cost Future [infographic]

There are a lot of utility-sponsored legislative and regulatory attacks on solar energy lately, and we put together t...

FINANCIAL NEWS

CURRENT MAGAZINE ISSUE

Volume 18, Issue 4
1507REW_C11

STAY CONNECTED

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

SOCIAL ACTIVITY

Tweet the Editors! @jennrunyon

FEATURED PARTNERS



EVENTS

Intersolar South America 2015

Exhibition and Conference: September 1-3, 2015 Intersolar South America ...

Intersolar Europe 2016

Exhibition: June 22-24, 2016; Conference: June 21-22, 2016 Intersolar Eu...

Intersolar India 2015

Exhibition and Conference: November 18-20, 2015 Intersolar India 2015 I...

COMPANY BLOGS

The Proof Is Not Always In The Pudding

One of the best ways to turn a skeptical prospect into a buyer is to giv...

Pushing Beyond The Cushion

Efficiency projects are all too often viewed as “optional” o...

Less Is More

When you’re giving a presentation, one of the easiest things to do...

NEWSLETTERS

Renewable Energy: Subscribe Now

Solar Energy: Subscribe Now

Wind Energy: Subscribe Now

Geothermal Energy: Subscribe Now

Bioenergy: Subscribe Now  

 

FEATURED PARTNERS