Researchers study deep sea bacteria for highly efficient solar panels


The race to develop the most efficient solar panels is definitely on and that’s the reason we regularly come up with breakthroughs that promise to convert sunlight into more energy and hence reduce the cost of solar power. While researchers at NREL and Solar Junction believe that their multi-junction PV cells would make the world’s most efficient solar panels, a team from the University of Cambridge is unlocking nature’s quantum engineering for efficient solar energy.

The team here is studying a deep sea bacteria, dubbed Green Sulfur Bacteria, that live almost a mile under the surface of the sea and has adapted ways to harness even traces of light very efficiently. The bacteria, in some cases, can process and convert 100 percent of the light they find into usable energy, which is about six times the efficiency of a typical solar panel. The team is now studying the proteins that make this happen and believe that the same could be applied to harvest renewable solar energy for electricity.

Giga Om notes that Bacteria and other microorganisms, use pigment-protein complexes, for photosynthesis and while in many organisms as the electrons move through these complexes some energy gets lost, the process in the Green Sulfur Bacteria is highly efficient and doesn’t lose any energy through the point of harvest. This understanding will help researchers come up with nature-inspired PV cells that allow more electricity to be created from fewer solar cells and hence the cost of renewable energy will be reduced.

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