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Photosynthesis Works for Plants, And Solar Panels - Sierra Daily
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Sierra Daily

Feb 06, 2012

Photosynthesis Works for Plants, And Solar Panels

Pisy_001_svp"Within a few years, people in remote villages in the developing world may be able to make their own solar panels, at low cost, using otherwise worthless agricultural waste as their raw material,” writes the MIT News Office. By stabilizing the plant molecules that carry out photosynthesis and enabling them to form a layer on a glass substrate, researchers such as Andreas Mershin of the university’s Center for Bits and Atoms envision organic solar cells.

The process is in its infancy -- early examples were so weak they had to be blasted with lasers to produce current -- but Mershin says researchers have simplified the process to the point where it can be replicated in almost any lab. (His breakthrough? Imagining solar chips like densely packed pines, which are particularly good at maximizing surface area exposed to sunlight. ) “The new system’s efficiency is 10,000 times greater than in the previous version -- although in converting just 0.1 percent of sunlight’s energy to electricity, it still needs to improve another tenfold or so to become useful,” Mershin says. But the potential is vast. One day, even your lowly grass clippings could be fuel for your rooftop solar panel.

-- Reed McManus 

Image: USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database, USDA-NRCS ND State Soil Conservation Committee

 

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