Solar Panels

Bacteria-powered solar cell

Innovative Solar Panels

These uniquely design cells, created by the researchers at the University of British Columbia, are able to convert light to energy even in dim skies. Being able to be produced cheaply these cells will allow for locations with high cloud cover to utilise renewable energy, such as British Columbia and parts of Northern Europe.

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Bacteria

Named ‘biogenic,’ the cells are more economical and made of living organisms. Researchers from the University of British Columbia (UBC) had previously tried to extract the dye that was used by the bacteria for photosynthesis. This was a long, costly and complex process. Instead, they genetically engineered E. coli to produce large amounts of ‘lycopene’, a dye that give fruits and vegetables their vibrant colours and is also particularly effective in harvesting light for conversion to energy. The dyes colouring is also well suited to a broader range of weather conditions.

Yadav, a researcher at the UBC believes that while the exact cost savings are difficult to estimate, he believes the cost of dye productions would be around one tenth of what it would otherwise be.

Challenges with using this technique include: balancing both microorganisms growth to maximise the device performance and the need to make sure that the closed system will permanently generate power, without the use of additional maintenance.

Further use for such innovative ideas such as the biogenic cells, include their use in mining, deep seas exploration and other low light environments.

These biogenic cells are still a long way from becoming available on the market. Researches are hoping to improve their design to keep the bacteria alive longer and in turn increase the life of each cell.