Navigation Links
UT biosolar breakthrough promises cheap, easy green electricity
Date:2/2/2012

Barry D. Bruce, professor of biochemistry, cellular and molecular biology, at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, is turning the term "power plant" on its head. The biochemist and a team of researchers have developed a system that taps into photosynthetic processes to produce efficient and inexpensive energy.

Bruce collaborated with researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Ecole Polytechnique Federale in Switzerland to develop a process that improves the efficiency of generating electric power using molecular structures extracted from plants. The biosolar breakthrough has the potential to make "green" electricity dramatically cheaper and easier.

"This system is a preferred method of sustainable energy because it is clean and it is potentially very efficient," said Bruce, who was named one of "Ten Revolutionaries that May Change the World" by Forbes magazine in 2007 for his early work, which first demonstated biosolar electricity generation. "As opposed to conventional photovoltaic solar power systems, we are using renewable biological materials rather than toxic chemicals to generate energy. Likewise, our system will require less time, land, water and input of fossil fuels to produce energy than most biofuels."

Their findings are in the current issue of Nature: Scientific Reports.

To produce the energy, the scientists harnessed the power of a key component of photosynthesis known as photosystem-I (PSI) from blue-green algae. This complex was then bioengineered to specifically interact with a semi-conductor so that, when illuminated, the process of photosynthesis produced electricity. Because of the engineered properties, the system self-assembles and is much easier to re-create than his earlier work. In fact, the approach is simple enough that it can be replicated in most labsallowing others around the world to work toward further optimization.

"Because the system is so cheap and simple, my hope is that this system will develop with additional improvements to lead to a green, sustainable energy source," said Bruce, noting that today's fossil fuels were once, millions of years ago, energy-rich plant matter whose growth also was supported by the sun via the process of photosynthesis.

This green solar cell is a marriage of non-biological and biological materials. It consists of small tubes made of zinc oxidethis is the non-biological material. These tiny tubes are bioengineered to attract PSI particles and quickly become coated with themthat's the biological part. Done correctly, the two materials intimately intermingle on the metal oxide interface, which when illuminated by sunlight, excites PSI to produce an electron which "jumps" into the zinc oxide semiconductor, producing an electric current.

The mechanism is orders of magnitude more efficient than Bruce's earlier work for producing bio-electricity thanks to the interfacing of PS-I with the large surface provided by the nanostructured conductive zinc oxide; however it still needs to improve manifold to become useful. Still, the researchers are optimistic and expect rapid progress.

Bruce's ability to extract the photosynthetic complexes from algae was key to the new biosolar process. His lab at UT isolated and bioengineered usable quantities of the PSI for the research.

Andreas Mershin, the lead author of the paper and a research scientist at MIT, conceptualized and created the nanoscale wires and platform. He credits his design to observing the way needles on pine trees are placed to maximize exposure to sunlight.

Mohammad Khaja Nazeeruddin in the lab of Michael Graetzel, a professor at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale in Lausanne, Switzerland, did the complex testing needed to determine that the new mechanism actually performed as expected. Graetzel is a pioneer in energy and electron transfer reactions and their application in solar energy conversion.

Michael Vaughn, once an undergraduate in Bruce's lab and now a National Science Foundation (NSF) predoctoral fellow at Arizona State University, also collaborated on the paper.

"This is a real scientific breakthrough that could become a significant part of our renewable energy strategy in the future," said Lee Riedinger, interim vice chancellor for research. "This success shows that the major energy challenges facing us require clever interdisciplinary solutions, which is what we are trying to achieve in our energy science and engineering PhD program at the Bredesen Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Education of which Dr. Bruce is one of the leading faculty."


'/>"/>
Contact: Whitney Heins
wheins@utk.edu
865-974-5460
University of Tennessee at Knoxville
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. Breakthrough model reveals evolution of ancient nervous systems through seashell colors
2. Damon Runyon grants Fellowship and Breakthrough Scientist awards to 21 top young scientists
3. DOE researchers achieve important genetic breakthroughs to help develop cheaper biofuels
4. Breakthrough in regulating fat metabolism
5. Breakthrough in the production of flood-tolerant crops
6. Wayne State announces license agreement for breakthrough approaches to vision restoration
7. Southampton scientists herald significant breakthrough in study of chlamydia
8. Breakthrough: A robot brain implanted in a rodent
9. Scientists announce human intestinal stem cell breakthrough for regenerative medicine
10. Breakthrough in hydrogen fuel cells
11. Breakthrough lights way for RNA discoveries
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:1/12/2017)... 12, 2017  Trovagene, Inc. (NASDAQ: TROV ... today announced that it has signed agreements with seven ... the Middle East for commercialization ... the first wave of international distribution agreements for Trovagene,s ... samples. The initial partners will introduce Trovagene,s ...
(Date:1/11/2017)... DES MOINES, Iowa , Jan. 11, 2017 /PRNewswire/ ... another industry first with the release of its patent-pending ... to quickly and reliably perform calibrations, securely upload data ... more flexibility for the customer. "Fighting drunk ... not only for the public at large, but also ...
(Date:1/6/2017)... 5, 2017  SomaLogic announced today that it ... established by iCarbonX, the China ... "Global Digital Health Ecosystem that can define each ... individual,s biological, behavioral and psychological data, the Internet ... companies, SomaLogic will provide proteomics data and applications ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:1/18/2017)...   Boston Biomedical , an industry leader in ... stemness pathways, will feature data from two clinical studies ... ASCO Gastrointestinal Cancers Symposium, held from January 19-21, in ... Napabucasin is an orally-administered investigational agent designed to inhibit ... stem cells (CSCs) possess the property of stemness – ...
(Date:1/18/2017)... ... January 18, 2017 , ... Whitehouse ... expertise. Within Albany Molecular Research, Inc. (AMRI), the scientific staff dedicated to Extractables ... is planned for further growth in 2017. Extractable & Leachable evaluations have become ...
(Date:1/18/2017)... Chicago, IL (PRWEB) , ... January 18, 2017 ... ... auction on January 24th, 2017, to sell research and genetic testing lab equipment ... of service in the Northwest and Northeast regions of the United States. This ...
(Date:1/18/2017)... 18, 2017  Caris Life Sciences, a leading ... the largest private funder of pancreatic cancer research, ... the impact of immunotherapy in the treatment of ... services to identify potential trial candidates based on ... physicians and study investigators. The Lustgarten Foundation is ...
Breaking Biology Technology: