Green Solar Cells & Panels
Green Solar Panels & Cells is a recent technology to manufacture solar cells & panels by isolating chlorophyll, the plant protein that converts sunlight into energy and transforming them into electrons. The process involves making of solar cells from the set of molecules within plant cells that do the work of photosynthesis. The theory is very simple and one can also create solar panels from agricultural waste. It is a way to utilize “nature’s solar panels” ie. plants’ leaves, into man-made solar panels that can be used to generate electricity.
This theory was developed by Andreas Mershin, research affiliate at the MIT Center for Bits and Atoms who said “It’ll soon be possible to stir some grass clippings into a bag of cheap chemicals, paint the mixture on your roof, and immediately start producing electricity.” Hence it was possible to make progress in making low-cost solar cell from plants. This is a perfect combination of biology and electronics also known as “Bio-photovoltaics“.
- Very Cheap – It will neither require any expensive laboratory nor any costly equipments for the process. There are some chemicals that need to be mixed with green plants, even grass clippings, to create a photovoltaic material by harnessing photosynthesis.
- Low dependence on Electricity – Using green solar cells would definitely cut down the electricity consumption. This technology could be used by people living in the developing countries without the power grids, to charge lamps or cell phones.
- Consumers into Producers – It is an easy way to transform the Consumers of Electricity into Producers of Electricity. People can use any local materials they can find in their backyard, as a substrate & use it to convert in to electricity. If done perfectly, these people can even start selling that electricity to others.
- Go Green – This is a super environment-friendly way of using solar power to convert into usable electricity.
- The technology aims at a 10,000 % efficiency improvement on previous plant-based solar cells, but these cells are far from being practical. Experimental solar cells made using this process only convert 0.1 % of sunlight to electricity ( Mershin said).
- The current produced is too low.
- Durability and Efficiency are questionable, since it is in a very nascent stage right now.
Step 1: The technology revolves around extracting the photo-synthesising molecules, called Photosystem I, from plant matter. This Photosystem I contains the chlorophyll. So you need to isolate the chlorophyll part & then try to stabilize it, so that it does not degrade into dead matter.
Step 2: The materials that isolate the PS-I molecules form an array of tiny zinc oxide nanowires, which carry the current. These nanowires, serve as a multi-layered solar cell and can be grown at room temperature on a variety of flexible and inexpensive substrates. When sunlight hits the panels, the titanium dioxide and the stabilised ‘Photosystem I’ convert the sun’s rays into electricity. The nanowires then transport the electricity, by means of a battery & wires. Thus you convert sunlight into electricity.
“After many years of research, we’ve managed to make the process of extracting this protein and stabilizing it and putting on a surface that is made in a way to allow for the photovoltaic effect to happen to be very easy,” he said in a video provided by MIT.
In their paper, the researchers note a number of challenges to these “green” solar cells, including the durability and efficiency. But the initial performance tests for this new technique offers a promising route for further research, they said. “Commandeering this intricately organized photosynthetic nanocircuitry and re-wiring it to produce electricity carries the promise of inexpensive and environmentally friendly solar power,” according to the paper.
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