Microalgae Might Be The Key To Improve Efficiency Of Solar Cells

Market Expertz   |     May 15, 2019


A new research at the University of Birmingham and the University of Utrecht suggests that tiny light-emitting microalgae that are found in the ocean can give way to the next generation of organic solar cells. The team has resorted to some of the advanced methods of the mass spectrometry technique that allowed them to distinguish individual components of the algae light-harvesting system. This methodology helped them uncover details of distinct modules of the system that were never seen before. The team’s work has been published in the journal Cell Chem.

Microalgae are probably the oldest living organisms on the planet that have evolved over billions of years to have light-harvesting systems that are almost 95 percent efficient. This system helps them withstand extreme environments and also adapt to survive. Discovering how the system works could give important clues about how it could be employed in new, super-efficient organic solar panels. The team’s study will help them determine what makes microalgae so efficient in light harvesting. Aneika Leney of the University of Birmingham and a lead author on the paper believes that microalgae can perform more efficiently than systems designed by engineers and by applying the existing knowledge about microalgae, they might be able to make some real progress towards adopting a similar mechanism in solar panels. Professor Albert Heck, Scientific Director, the Netherlands Proteomics Centre, Utrecht University, compares microalgae to a Swiss watch. Heck says that the structure of the algae might look sluggish, but when its molecular details are examined that allows them to convert sunlight into energy with such proficiency, they seem more sophisticated than the most advanced Swiss watch.

In the next phase of the research, the team will extensively study how the energy is transferred through the light-harvesting mechanism and figure out why the modules they have identified are so efficient. Dr. Leney says that most solar panels that are domestically used in the UK operate at 10 to 20 percent efficiency and increasing this efficiency to 95 percent will drastically increase the use of solar energy, which will also have a positive impact on the environment.

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