Imagine painting green goo prepared from your backyard or agricultural waste on your roofs, and voila! There you have your very own solar panel. This breakthrough technology with a little more development could make harnessing solar energy very easy even for remote villages. using the basic concept of extracting electricity from the PS-I molecules of leaves it is nature friendly and a promising future technology.
An extended project of Shuguang Zhang an MIT Researcher who managed to isolate and stabilize the PS-I (Photosystem-I) molecules, which carry out photosynthesis in plants was taken up by Andreas Mershin, also an MIT researcher (for Bits and Atoms) who, gave a new dimension to the project.
Earlier expensive chemicals were needed and also very little efficacy was found which was too low to be of any practical use. Moreover labyrinthine lab facilities were required for stabilizing and assembling the molecules.
It failed in its working, as only a thin layer was exposed and so Mershin while expropriating these sophisticated molecules went behind the idea of expanding the field area of exposure for better capturing of sunlight.
Mershin’s apple hit his head when he realised that the pines acquired its light mainly from the top branches, that he concluded to create a microscopic forest on a chip – ‘an electric nanoforest’ he called it. He also notched up a scale and went on to add zinc oxide nanowires (ZnO) and titanium oxide(TiO2) nanostructures which had the advantage of absorbing UV light which tends to damage the PS-I molecules.
Adding to that, now with these improvements one could carry out these processes from any normal lab including schools and colleges where further research could also be carried out. Even though it has increased efficiency which is now 10000 times greater, it can only convert 0.1 percent of the sunlight’s energy which needs further improvement to at least 1 percent. Still it is an achievement to be applauded for Rome was not built in a day.
In the future it could become as simple as making a bowl of noodles, with a bag of anything green, where one simply mixes the low cost chemicals with the agricultural/ backyard waste and paint it on roofs to power machines like mobiles and lamps.
With life on earth facing at least the signs of extinction, developments in the field of sustainable living seems to grow in its importance. Renewable, affordable, environmental friendly adoptions are much sought out for among which this new technique in the field of bio photovoltaics also forms a significant part.
-Amritha Karthikeyan is a B.tech Horticulture student. Email – firstname.lastname@example.org