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Solar energy from plant waste

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US and Swiss scientists have developed a device that could eventually produce electricity from plants. A team of scientists from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, United States, claim to have devised a technology to produce electric current from plants, when exposed to light. Inspired by photosynthesis, the new experimental solar cell converts 0.1 per cent of incoming sunlight’s energy to electricity, reports Scientific Reports.

For over a decade, researchers have attempted to make solar cells by extracting some of the plant molecules responsible for photosynthesis, known as photosystem-I (PS-I) to produce electric current when exposed to light. But MIT researchers lead by Andreas Mershin claim, their device, unlike earlier research, is inexpensive to fabricate and perform well under standard sunlight.

They have found a way of exposing more of the cell to the sun by creating a three-dimensional miniature ‘forest’ of zinc oxide nanowires and titanium dioxide sponges on a layer of glass, coated with PS-I that absorbs any sunlight filtering down onto the surface and turns it into electricity.

Mershin hopes, in a few years, rural communities would be able to mix waste vegetation, even glass clippings, into a bag containing zinc and titanium and paint the mixture onto their roofs to start generating electricity.

Scientific community, however, feels there is a long way to go from the laboratory version and the real life application of the device.

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