I have an interesting guest posting from Jane Mcguire today:
Are you aware that a North Carolina State University team has demonstrated that water gel-based solar devices (known as: “artificial leaves”) can work like solar cells to create electricity?
The analysis has been published on-line in the Journal of Materials Chemistry by Doctor Orlin Velev, an Invista Professor of Chemical and Bio-molecular Engineering.
The studies prove the concept for making solar cells that more closely simulate nature. They also have the potential to be cheaper and more eco-friendly than the present standard silicon based solar cells.
The bendable devices are composed of water-based gel infused together with light-sensitive molecules (like plant chlorophyll) coupled with electrodes coated by carbon elements, such as carbon nanotubes or graphite.
Graphene is the simple structural element of some carbon allotropes including graphite, carbon nanotubes and fullerenes. Graphene is a 1-atom thick planar sheet of carbon atoms that are largely packed in a honeycomb crystal lattice. The title comes from graphite ene; graphite itself consists of numerous graphene sheets stacked together.
The light-sensitive molecules get “excited” by the sun’s rays to create electricity, similar to plant molecules that get excited to synthesize sugars in order to grow.
Dr. Velev states that the research team hopes to be able to “learn how to mimic the materials through which nature harnesses solar energy.” Although man made light-sensitive molecules can be used, Velev says naturally derived products, like chlorophyll, are also effortlessly integrated in these units because of their particular water-gel matrix.
Velev even imagines a future in which roofs could be covered with soft sheets of similar electrical power-generating man-made-leaf solar cells. The concept of biochemically inspired ’soft’ devices for generating electricity may in the future offer an alternative for the present-day solid-state technologies.
About the Author: Colleen Jane Mcguire is currently writing for the http://www.solarwaterfountains.org blog, her personal hobby web log is focused on guidelines to help homeowners spend a smaller amount of energy with solar energy.
Reference: Aqueous soft matter based photovoltaic or pv devices. Journal of Materials Chemistry, 2011; DOI: http://pubs.rsc.org/en/Content/ArticleLanding/2011/JM/c0jm01820a