A new type of solar panels powered by bacteria developed by the researchers at the University of British Columbia takes advantage of the capacity of some microorganisms to produce energy from light, even in low-light conditions. In this case, it is a combination of modified bacteria and photosynthetic elements. The result is a biogenic compound, a series of photovoltaic cells made from living organisms.
These new photovoltaic cells are more efficient than the most common synthetic panels, conserving a good part of their capacity to produce energy even when there is no direct sunlight, or it’s cloudy, for example. As the researchers explain, previous efforts to manufacture biogenic solar panels have focused on using the natural agent that some bacteria use to perform photosynthesis. However, extracting the photosensitive agent without causing excessive damage is a complicated and expensive process.
“Our solution is a significant step towards making solar energy more economical. The holy grail would be to perfect the process so that the bacteria can be kept alive and produce the photosensitive agent indefinitely,” explained Vikramaditya Yadav from the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering at the University of British Columbia.
Solar panels powered by bacteria can produce energy in low-light conditions
Although it is still too early to know the exact economic savings of this method, in comparison with other similar ways, the simplification of the manufacturing process anticipates that its production should be cleaner and cheaper, and its waste biodegradable.
Applications for solar panels powered by bacteria would include the production of electricity in regions with only a few hours of sunlight per day or where cloudy days are frequent. But, as the researchers suggested, these newly developed biogenic photovoltaic cells could be used in mining, underground, underwater, and other environments where light is usually scarce.
Other projects work on developing photovoltaic cells that produce energy from rain
This research comes in addition to other similar ones. Recently scientists from the Chinese Ocean University in Qingdao have developed prototype solar panels that generate electricity even when it rains and take advantage of chemical reactions produced by the salts present in rainwater.
Similarly, researchers at the CEA center in France are developing piezoelectric materials that convert the kinetic energy of rain, the mechanical energy that is transferred when water drops hit the surface, into electricity.
The combination of these materials would improve the efficiency of solar panels thanks to their ability to also produce energy even when it rains.
Erin VanDyke lives on her family farm and has more than 35 years of hands-on experience with the use of livestock guard dogs for predator control. On their farm, Jan and her family use corgis as herding dogs and have raised Shetland sheep, Fainting goats, Morgan and Trakehner horses, and historic breeds of chickens and turkeys. Erin is also an active beekeeper.