Photosynthetic molecule plus semiconductor make efficient biophotovoltaics

sun_PS-1_small

Image: Lykaestria at the English language Wikipedia


Knoxville, TN--Barry Bruce and colleagues at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville have created photovoltaic cells containing a nanosctructured semiconductor on which a photosynthetic pigment/protein (photosystem-I, or PS-I) has self-assembled.1 The device has an open-circuit voltage of 0.5 V, an electrical power density of 81 µW/cm2 and a photocurrent density of 362 µA/cm2 -- a current density more than 10,000 times higher than any previous biophotovoltaic device based on PS-I.

The researchers collaborated with others from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Cambridge, MA) and Ecole Polytechnique Federale (Lausanne, Switzerland). “As opposed to conventional photovoltaic solar power systems, we are using renewable biological materials rather than toxic chemicals to generate energy," says Bruce. "Likewise, our system will require less time, land, water and input of fossil fuels to produce energy than most biofuels.”

PS-I bioengineered for the purpose
The PS-I is extracted from blue-green algae, then bioengineered to specifically interact with nanostructured conductive zinc oxide so that, when illuminated, the process of photosynthesis produces electricity. The approach is simple enough that it can be replicated in most labs, allowing others around the world to work toward further optimization.

The mechanism is orders of magnitude more efficient than earlier work done by Bruce for producing bioelectricity thanks to the interfacing of PS-I with the large surface provided by the nanostructured conductive zinc oxide; however it still needs to improve manifold to become useful. Still, the researchers are optimistic and expect rapid progress.

Andreas Mershin, a research scientist at MIT, conceptualized and created the nanoscale wires and platform. He credits his design to observing the way needles on pine trees are placed to maximize exposure to sunlight.

Mohammad Khaja Nazeeruddin in the lab of Michael Graetzel, a professor at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale in Lausanne, Switzerland, did the complex testing needed to determine that the new mechanism actually performed as expected. Graetzel is a pioneer in energy and electron transfer reactions and their application in solar energy conversion.

Michael Vaughn, once an undergraduate in Bruce’s lab and now a National Science Foundation predoctoral fellow at Arizona State University, also collaborated on the paper.

Bruce’s work is funded by the Emerging Frontiers Program at the National Science Foundation.


REFERENCE:

1. Andreas Mershin et al., Nature: Scientific Reports, accepted 05 Jan. 2012, published 02 Feb. 2012; doi:10.1038/srep00234



Most Popular Articles

Webcasts

Opportunities in the Mid-IR

The technology for exploiting the mid-IR is developing rapidly:  it includes quantum-cascade lasers and other sources, spectroscopic instruments of many...

Fiber Optic Sensors – Fundamentals, Principles and Applications

In this webcast, sponsored by Nufern, we focus on optical fiber sensing technology.  Fundamental concepts will be presented first, followed by the under...

Infinite Possibilities – Easily Combining Scanner and Servo Motion

High precision motion control applications such as laser micromachining, 2-photon polymerization, glass panel and film patterning, and additive manufacturing...

Solutions in Search of Problems: What Spectroscopy Can Do for You

Spectroscopy is so pervasive that most of us take it for granted. We use it for routine laboratory and test measurements without appreciating how those same ...

Technical Digests

HIGH-ENERGY LASER COATINGS: Eliminating laser damage proactively

High-power and high-energy thin-film antireflection coatings for laser optics require careful des...
Sponsored by

LIBS -- spectroscopy for remote identification of materials

Laser-induced-breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) uses a pulsed laser to vaporize a small sample of a s...
Sponsored by

Laser Tools for Materials Processing

Laser materials processing requires not only the appropriate industrial laser system, but also a ...
Sponsored by

Click here to have your products listed in the Laser Focus World Buyers Guide.

RELATED PRODUCTS

QImaging EXi Blue CCD Camera

Fast with high sensitivity for live cell imaging.

QImaging QIClick CCD Camera

Versatile, easy-to-use camera for brightfield and fluorescence microscopy.

IntellilGain EDFA/ASE Sources

BaySpec’s MiniLite™ series of wideband or broadband light sources are designed to enhan...

RELATED COMPANIES

General Photonics Corp

Provides low-cost, high-performance solutions for polarization measurement/management a...

DELTA

Offers high-quality optical UHC coatings for various applications including cytometry, ...

Energetiq Technology Inc

Energetiq's Laser-Driven Light Sources (LDLS™) offer the highest brightness, broadest b...

Social Activity

  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
Copyright © 2007-2014. PennWell Corporation, Tulsa, OK. All Rights Reserved.PRIVACY POLICY | TERMS AND CONDITIONS