Environment Technology

Bacteria Powered Solar Cell Makes Clean Energy


A step forward in the green energy revolution: scientists have successfully connected nine biological-solar (or “bio-solar”) cells within a solar panel. The system has been used to produce electricity. The level of energy generated is the highest level of wattage of any previously attempted bio-solar cells, coming in at 5.59 microwatts.

Bio-solar cells are hybrids formed from a combination of organic matter (photosystem) and inorganic matter. To this, bacteria are used for the generation of power.

The basis of the technology is photosynthetic extracellular electron transfer. This utilizes a process that takes place within some specific bacteria. For this, a group called cyanobacteria are used. Cyanobacteria are a phylum of bacteria that obtain their energy through photosynthesis. The bacteria are sometimes, erroneously, called blue-green algae.

These bacteria are incorporated into the solar cells, being placed into miniature microfluidic-based single-chambered devices. Once sited, electricity is produced from photosynthesis and the respiratory activities of the bacteria. This is in a pattern of 12-hour day-night cycles. The bio-solar panel was tested over a period of 60 total hours.

The panel will have a number of potential uses, especially in areas that are remote. One example is for use with wireless sensors in locations where frequent battery replacement is impractical. It is hoped that the prototype panel can be commercialized. The main complication will be with scale-up.

The research is published in the journal Sensors and Actuators B: Chemical, in a paper titled “Biopower generation in a microfluidic bio-solar panel.”