Researchers in Sweden have harnessed animal protein to create solar energy in a technology development that could usher in a new age of low-cost photovoltaic cells.
They have extracted luminous jellyfish protein known as GFP (Green Fluorescent Protein) and sandwiched it between a pair of electrodes to create a solar cell.
The device starts out as a silicon platform, onto which two minute electrodes are placed. A single drop of jellyfish protein is then put on top and, as it occupies the space between the electrodes, it forms strands. Exposure to ultraviolet rays causes the protein to take in light and push out electrons - the building blocks of electricity – and the resultant creation is effectively a fully-functioning photovoltaic device in miniature.
Jellyfish: Solar Energy
This jellyfish solar energy technique has been developed and implemented by a team at Gothenburg’s Chalmers University of Technology, led by Zackary Chiragwandi.
Compared to standard silicon solar cells, the GFP cell offers a reduced-cost option, since the use of natural products obviates the need for materials such as titanium dioxide, which is expensive.
Even if this specific design does not electrify the world markets, it highlights the innovation taking place within the renewable energy industry and the same is true of another product under development in the UK. Rather than jellyfish, this one uses photosynthetic matter and algae as a source of bio-photovoltaics.
Earlier this year, the Cambridge University scientists developing this bio-solar energy technology demonstrated – for the first time – that algae could supply electrical power.
The natural abundance of algae makes it an attractive proposition for future electrical needs while, elsewhere, algae-based biofuels have been used on pioneering aircraft flights.
“Algae offer considerable potential as a source of Bioenergy”, Cambridge University Plant Sciences Department Head, Professor Sir David Baulcombe, stated in a press release issued in June 2010.
“By studying fundamentals of their metabolism and molecular biology and by understanding the fantastic natural variation in the different types of algae we can harness this potential for energy production.”
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