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North Carolina Researchers Indicate How Water Based ‘Artificial Leaf’ Generates Electricity

Are you aware that a North Carolina State University staff showed that water gel-based solar devices (named: “artificial leaves”) can work like solar cells to create electricity?

The research has been released on-line within the Journal of Materials Chemistry by Doctor. Orlin Velev, an Invista Professor associated with Chemical and Bio-molecular Engineering.

The conclusions prove the idea for making solar cells that more closely mimic nature. They also have the possibility to be cheaper and more beneficial to our environment than the current standard silicon based solar cells.

The bendable units are composed of water-based gel infused along with light-sensitive molecules (like plant chlorophyll) coupled with electrodes coated by carbon elements, such as carbon nanotubes or graphite.

Graphene is the fundamental structural element of a number of carbon allotropes including graphite, carbon nanotubes and fullerenes. Graphene is a one-atom thick planar sheet of carbon atoms that are largely packed in a honeycomb crystal lattice. The title comes from graphite ene; graphite itself consists of numerous graphene sheets piled together.

The light-sensitive molecules get “excited” by the sun’s rays to make electricity, similar to plant molecules that get excited to synthesize sugars in order to grow.

Dr. Velev affirms that the research team hopes to “learn how to copy the materials by which nature harnesses solar energy.” Although manufactured light-sensitive molecules can be used, Velev says naturally derived products, like chlorophyll, are also effortlessly integrated in these devices because of their water-gel matrix.

Velev even imagines a future in which rooftops could be covered with soft sheets of similar electrical power-generating man-made-leaf solar cells. The concept of biologically inspired ‘soft’ products for generating electricity may possibly in the future provide an alternative for the present-day solid-state technologies.

About the Author: Colleen Mcguire produces for the solar fountains for the garden blog, her personal hobby blog focused on guidelines to help home owners to spend a smaller amount energy with solar energy.

Reference: Aqueous soft matter based pv devices. Journal of Materials Chemistry, 2011; DOI: http://pubs.rsc.org/en/Content/ArticleLanding/2011/JM/c0jm01820a