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 conv
|Contact: Whitney Heins|
University of Tennessee at Knoxville