While Masdar and Suntech and other solar energy projects are laboring under expensive, high-tech materials in order to improve their energy-absorbing capability, MIT researchers in the United States are taking a different approach. They realized that nothing in nature absorbs energy as well as plants, so they have developed a solar technology that combines a small amount of grass (or other agricultural waste), a stabilizing powder made of zinc oxide and titanium oxide, and a glass or metal substrate which mimics the photosynthesis process. Eventually their technology will be so simple that anybody will be able to make their own solar panels for next to nothing.
According to the folks at Fastco Design, the MIT researchers have discovered how to “chemically stabilize plant-derived photosystem-I (PS-I), the structures inside plant cells that perform photosynthesis, on a substrate that creates electric current when exposed to light–all using readily-available materials.”
This solar cell then isolates PS-1 molecules and eventually carries an electrical current with the stabilizing powder.
So, instead of massive solar-panel producing factories that require a lot of natural materials, MIT’s technology could literally be packed in a small plastic bag and shipped off to anyone who wants to make their own solar panels at home.
DIY panels for anyone
If DIY enthusiasts can get their hands on a few grass clippings or other greenery and the substrate, then MIT only needs to ship out the zinc and titanium oxide and instructions for creating energy from this unlikely mix and a solar panel has been made.
Eventually, according to Andreas Mershin, people will be able to mix everything together and create a paint that can be applied to their roof. But there is a catch. At the moment, this technology doesn’t even have a 2% efficiency rate yet. But it will, and even that is plenty efficient given the small amount of resources necessary to create it.
This is what we call putting the sun’s power into the hands of the people. One day we won’t have to rely on the big money folks in order to have a little light in our homes.
image via Penywise, Morguefile
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