Bacteria-powered Solar Cell works even under overcast skies

Bacteria-powered Solar Cell works even under overcast skies


University of British Columbia researchers
have found a cheap, sustainable way to build a solar cell using bacteria that convert light
to energy. Their cell generated a current stronger than
any previously recorded from such a device, and worked as efficiently in dim light as
in bright light. This innovation could be a step toward wider
adoption of solar power in places like British Columbia and parts of northern Europe where
overcast skies are common. These solar cells are called as “biogenic”
because they are made of living organisms. With further development, they could become
as efficient as the synthetic cells used in conventional solar panels. Solar cells are the building blocks of solar
panels. They do the work of converting light into
electrical current. Previous efforts to build biogenic solar cells
have focused on extracting the natural dye that bacteria use for photosynthesis. It’s a costly and complex process that involves
toxic solvents and can cause the dye to degrade. The UBC researchers’ solution was to leave
the dye in the bacteria. They genetically engineered E. coli to produce
large amounts of –a dye that gives tomatoes their red-orange colour and is particularly
effective at harvesting light for conversion to energy. The researchers coated the bacteria with a
mineral that could act as a semiconductor, and applied the mixture to a glass surface. With the coated glass acting as an anode at
one end of their cell, they generated a current density of 0.686 milliamps per square centimetre–an
improvement on the 0.362 achieved by others in the field.

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