Hailed as a “cheap, sustainable” method of renewable energy extraction, the cell can generate a current stronger than any previously recorded from similar devices. Development of the cell opens new possibilities for typically-overcast regions such as British Columbia and Northern Europe, where the world's first solar panel road debuted in France.
UBC's “biogenic” solar cells contain living organisms, building on previous efforts which focused on extracting the natural dye that bacteria use for photosynthesis. Addressing the traditionally costly and complex process involved in dye extraction, researchers at UBC, led by Professor Vikramaditya Yadav, have switched their focus to genetically-engineered E. coli to produce large amounts of lycopene, a dye which is efficient at harvesting light for energy.
Our solution to a uniquely B.C. problem is a significant step towards making solar energy more economical […] we recorded the highest current density for a biogenic solar cell. These hybrid materials that we are developing can be manufactured economically and sustainably, and, with sufficient optimization, could perform at comparable efficiencies as conventional solar cells.
-Vikramaditya Yadav, Professor, UBC Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering
The team estimates that the process could reduce the cost of dye production by 90%, marking a significant leap forward for the technology's feasibility. Refusing to rest on their laurels, the team is continuing the push forward, searching for a process that doesn’t kill the bacteria, and thus produces dye indefinitely.
If successfully developed, the technology could also be applicable to mining, deep-sea exploration, and other low-light environments.
New via: The University of British Columbia