The Next Big Thing: Bacteria-Powered Solar Cells

#Solar is becoming a major area of focus – but have you heard of the conversion of sunlight into electricity using bacteria? It’s real - meet bacteria-powered solar cells!


The majority of cells function using electronics. But researchers at the University of have created something a bit different. The they have developed is able to convert sunlight into electricity using bacteria. But let’s start with the basics…

What Exactly Are Solar Cells?

Solar cells are, in essence, the building blocks of . They are responsible for converting light into electrical current. A solar cell is also known as a photovoltaic cell. In a nutshell, they capture solar . Needless to say, they are quite important in the world of renewable energy.

The Process of Isolation

It is not unheard of that bacteria can turn sunlight into energy through photosynthesis. This is a result of a chemical produced by said bacteria, which can vary dependent on the species of bacteria. Researchers have previously made an effort to isolate these chemicals and utilize them in solar cells – however, the isolation process can be challenging and often destroys the photosynthetic chemicals.

What is the University of British Columbia doing differently? To start, researchers have left the chemicals inside the bacteria, and utilized those bacteria to produce electricity. How? They bred E. coli bacteria to grow sizeable amounts of the photosynthetic chemicals and, at that juncture, covered the bacteria with semiconducting materials to generate electricity. Their innovative method will allow them to see a major advantage when it comes to other solar cells with a connection to bacteria – they will be able to double the amount of electricity which is collected. While this can’t quite contend with traditional solar panels, the will see other benefits.

The photosynthetic chemicals utilized by E. coli in the solar cell, specifically, work as well in low light as in direct sunlight – but what exactly does this mean? Why is it significant? It means they can still produce adequate electricity even on days which are cloudy. The fact that these solar cells are created without intricate manufacturing otherwise needed for traditional solar panels, or expensive materials, means these solar cells are less expensive to produce, as well as cleaner.

Using sustainable, cost-effective ways to build a solar cell by means of bacteria to transform light to energy is a major, impactful task. The cell is able to generate a current which is stronger than any other from a similar device, and the fact that it works in bright light as well as dim light is significant. Could we eventually see an extensive acceptance of solar power in British Columbia? Could this become big in places where skies tend to be overcast quite often? Perhaps. It is a wise idea to stay on top of solar news, so you can stay in the know when it comes to the latest developments.

While we won’t see bacteria-powered solar panels on the market just yet, researchers believe they can improve their design and keep the bacteria alive for longer periods of time. It is a possibility that at some point in time, bacteria-generated electricity will be used to power cities and homes. There are substantial changes being made across the globe. One must wonder how, as a planet, we will continue to find innovative ways to survive and thrive while protecting and sensibly using our natural resources.



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