Researchers at the University of Bristol have developed a new and more sustainable approach to solar-powered technological devices.
Solar panels are usually made of materials which are often rare and expensive and producing them can be harmful to humans and the environment when they become obsolete.
To make the process more sustainable, the scientists at Bristol have worked in collaboration with the Free University in Amsterdam to create a new composition of solar energy conversion through proteins.
In a research paper which was published yesterday (March 24) in the journal Nature Communications, the researchers outline how they have developed a single protein system that uses both chlorophyll and bacteriochlorophyll to work together to achieve solar energy conversion.
To achieve the conversion they used a protein called photsynethic and a light-harvesting protein called green plant, and locked them permanently together. This results in expanded solar energy conversion without the need for harmful or scarce materials.
Lead author of the study, Dr Mike Jones said: ‘In the past, two main types of protein have been used for solar energy conversion in technological devices.
‘The first is from ‘oxygenic’ photosynthetic organisms -plants, algae and cyanobacteria – that contain chlorophyll as their main photosynthetic pigment and produce oxygen as a waste product of the process.
‘The second is from ‘anoxygenic’ organisms, bacteria that contain bacteriochlorophyll as their primary photosynthetic pigment.
‘This work shows that it is possible to diversify the protein systems which can be built into devices beyond those which nature supplies, using a simple approach achieved purely through genetic encoding.’
In related news, solar power is set to become the world’s largest source of power by 2035 as the cost of renewables falls, a new report has found.
The renewable energy company Statkraft said that solar PV is already the world’s fastest-growing energy source, thanks to the ever-lowering production cost of solar panels and increased demand for renewable energy.