Most people won’t associate a stomach bug with a good thing, but there is actually an interesting twist when it comes to the bacterium found in the human gut. Researchers at the #University of British Columbia have discovered a good use for this bacterium, which is known to occasionally cause an upset stomach. These researchers have genetically engineered a culture of #E. coli, in a big move for the #solar industry. This is going to make the bacteria create larger amounts of lycopene, which is then going to degrade and create an electric current.
Note: If you like tomatoes, you likely have heard of lycopene, which is what gives this fruit its pigment (and yes, a tomato is a fruit, even though nutritionists frequently refer to it as a vegetable – this information was verified for the sake of producing accurate content).
But back to #bionic cells and bacterium, which could very well be the future of solar. Here’s how everything connects and why it is important if you are interested in solar…
We know bacteria can be put to good use. But not many would connect bacteria with solar. It is becoming common to hear new ideas regarding solar power on a daily basis, so it makes sense to consider cheaper alternatives to methods of harvesting sunlight. Using bacteria is just one idea coming to light.
The scientists from the University of British Columbia genetically modified the microorganisms, and consequently observed the pigment degrading. This means electrons were being produced. They then coated the bacterial culture with a semiconductor. The next move was to stick it to a glass surface, situated in a spot with plenty of sunshine. The results were astounding – the bacteria created #energy density of a little more than .68 milliamps per square centimeter. In terms of solar, this is significant because it is more than past bacteria-based solar cells. It was also created in a less expensive way.
#Bionic Solar Cells Could Become Huge
If this technology were to be developed at scale, it is unknown at this time how much would actually be saved. The bionic solar cell could still become popular down the road because sunlight could still be soaked up by the genetically modified E. coli under both a sunny and cloudy sky. In consequence, bionic solar cells could still be utilized even in spots where the weather is not conducive to using synthetic PV panels.
Other low-light environments could benefit from bionic solar cells, such as mines. Before the bionic solar cells could reach the levels of silicon solar cells, they would still need some improvements, according to Vikramaditya Yadav, a chemical engineer who led the study.
Bionic Solar Cells: A Synthetic Cell Alternative?
As with many new discoveries, there are some issues needing to be addressed. Applying a semiconductor to the bacteria, for instance, kills them – which means the process of lycopene creation is unable to be sustained in the current process. Scientists need to find a way to keep the bacteria alive. This will make the process more sustainable. Another issue is that because E. coli’s natural habitats don’t entail glass surfaces in the open air, scaling the #biogenic solar cells is tricky. Researchers need to discover a way to keep the bugs alive – if this happens, bionic solar cells could become a likely alternative to synthetic cells.