Thursday, January 27, 2011

Another new type of solar cell?


Perhaps another new way 
to harvest sunlight

Professor Richard Watt ( yes I believe he is a descendant of the great man), at Bingham Young, the Mormon owned University in Utah, along with a team were looking for a “protein”, similar to chlorophyll, that could potentially react with sunlight and harvest its energy.

To shorten the story somewhat, they used citric acid, same stuff as in oranges, along with their unspecified type of protein, and mixed fine gold powder into the solution. They then exposed the yellow mixture to sun light hoping to see it turn colour. Turning colour would mean that the gold particles had received an extra atom. In turn, that would indicate that the unnamed protein had captured sunlight and along with the citric acid had facilitated a transfer of energy.

It did turn colour from yellow to purple after exposure to sunlight - so they had their clear, or rather coloured,  proof of an active protein agent.

So far - so underwhelming!!! - you may well say!

The next phase of this project will, I guess, be the hard bit. The job will be to bind their “protein” to an electrode and actually get the system to generate electrical current with some decent level of efficiency.

The BYU team will work with the National Institute of Aerospace for this next stage of the work.


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