Solar cell with E. coli generates energy in low light conditions

Researchers have created a type of solar cell that can convert light into energy even in overcast conditions. Unlike commonly used solar products, these newly developed solar cells feature living organisms, making them "biogenic." According to researchers, their new biogenic solar cells are both sustainable and relatively inexpensive.

Though solar farms are an increasingly common sight in parts of the world, solar panels have a big limitation: they require direct sunlight. Personal solar systems aren't suitable for many homes due to their location in regions with frequently overcast skies, but newly detailed biogenic solar cells containing bacteria may offer a solution.

The research comes out of the University of British Columbia, which recently detailed the development. Solar cells, the part of solar panels that convert light into energy, work best in direct sunlight conditions. Though the idea of biogenic solar cells isn't new, previous efforts haven't generated an effective solution.

Researchers with UBC approached the concept from a different angle, according to the university, using a genetically engineered strain of E. coli that produces large amounts lycopene, a natural dye.

Lycopene is highly capable of converting light into energy, paving the way for these newly developed biogenic solar cells. Glass coated with this bacteria, which was first coated with a mineral for conductivity purposes, successfully generated current levels that exceeded other biogenic cells.

Talking about this is the study's lead professor Vikramaditya Yadav, who said:

We recorded the highest current density for a biogenic solar cell. These hybrid materials that we are developing can be manufactured economically and sustainably, and, with sufficient optimization, could perform at comparable efficiencies as conventional solar cells.

SOURCE: EurekAlert