Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

CleanTechnica
In a report published by Scientific Reports, researchers say they’re successfully working toward making low-cost solar cells from plants. While technically [...]

Biofuels

MIT Developing Paintable Solar Cells Made of Plants

In a report published by Scientific Reports, researchers say they’re successfully working toward making low-cost solar cells from plants. While technically […]

Biophotovoltaics

In a report published by Scientific Reports, researchers say they’re successfully working toward making low-cost solar cells from plants. While, technically, all plants are some sort of solar cell (photosynthesis takes sunlight, water, and CO2 and turns it into sugar, as you may remember from high school chemistry), the key here is the word “low cost.”

Photosynthesis On Your Roof

The project in question is focusing on a way to produce “biophotovoltaics” without all sorts of sophisticated lab equipment. And while esoteric and possibly arcane lab equipment is all sorts of cool, it’s also rather expensive and not always workable for mass-producing items. The new system is incredibly user-friendly and costs a lot less – mix green plants (like grass clippings) with custom-designed chemicals, and out comes a photovoltaic material made with the power of photosynthesis.

MIT researcher Andreas Mershin, one of the paper’s co-authors, explained just how easy the process is:

“Take that bag (of chemicals), mix it with anything green and paint it on the roof.”

That’s it – mix and paint. Mershin wants to see this inexpensive method used in developing countries, for example, where electricity is scarce and the power grids are unreliable.

Practice Makes Progress

The other key phrase in the report is “making progress;” while the solar cells made with Mershin’s chemical bath are 10,000% more efficient than previous plant-based solar cells, they still only convert 0.1% of sunlight to energy. (Just to keep the numbers straight, CleanTechnica readers may recall seeing record-breaking solar cells with upwards of 20% conversion.)

The solar cell in question is made by growing zinc oxide nanowires at room temperature on a variety of surfaces by isolating the photosystem-I molecules (the ones that actually perform photosynthesis in plants). The nanowires provide a large surface area to carry the flow of current.

In a video released by MIT, Mershin spoke about the process:

“After many ears of research, we’ve managed to make the process of extracting this protein and stabilizing it and putting on a surface that is made in a way to allow for the photovoltaic effect to happen to be very easy.”

Still Working

Mershin’s attempt is far from the first to look at plants for inspiration, but previous attempts produced too little current with much too expensive equipment. This new process is a giant leap forward. The team isn’t done yet, though. The solar cells must become more durable and much more efficient before they’re ready to hit the market.

Still, the idea of a mix-and-paint solar cell is pretty awesome. What do you think? Let us know in the comments below.

Source: Cnet | Image: Scientific Reports


Appreciate CleanTechnica’s originality? Consider becoming a CleanTechnica Member, Supporter, Technician, or Ambassador — or a patron on Patreon.
 
 
Have a tip for CleanTechnica, want to advertise, or want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.
Written By

spent 7 years living in Germany and Japan, studying both languages extensively, doing translation and education with companies like Bosch, Nissan, Fuji Heavy, and others. Charis has a Bachelor of Science degree in biology and currently lives in Chicago, Illinois. She also believes that Janeway was the best Star Trek Captain.

Comments

#1 most loved electric vehicle, solar energy, and battery news & analysis site in the world.

 

Support our work today!

Advertisement

Power CleanTechnica: $3/Month

Tesla News Solar News EV News Data Reports

Advertisement

EV Sales Charts, Graphs, & Stats

Advertisement

Our Electric Car Driver Report

30 Electric Car Benefits

Tesla Model 3 Video

Renewable Energy 101 In Depth

solar power facts

Tesla News

EV Reviews

Home Efficiency

You May Also Like

Climate Change

California Governor Gavin Newsom expanded an emergency drought declaration from two to 41 of the state’s 58 counties on Monday. Of California’s nearly 40...

Air Quality

Southern California air quality regulators approved a rule on Friday to cut down on air pollution related to the approximately 3,000 logistics warehouses that...

Clean Power

Global floating offshore wind race heats up as South Korea hatches plans to beat the US to the punch with world's largest array.

Climate Change

China now emits more greenhouse gas pollution than the 37 member nations of the OECD combined, a new report from the Rhodium Group says. China’s climate...

Copyright © 2021 CleanTechnica. The content produced by this site is for entertainment purposes only. Opinions and comments published on this site may not be sanctioned by and do not necessarily represent the views of CleanTechnica, its owners, sponsors, affiliates, or subsidiaries.