Ayomi Perera, a doctoral student in chemistry, Sri Lanka, is working under Stefan Bossmann, professor of chemistry, to improve dye-sensitized solar cells. The cells are a solar technology that use a dye to help generate energy from sunlight. By creating a less toxic dye and combining it with a bacteria, Perera's solar cells are friendlier to the environment and living organisms -- making an alternative energy solution to fossil fuels even greener.
"Dye-sensitized solar cells, which are solar cells with light-absorbing dye, have been around for more than 20 years, but their highest efficiency has stayed close to 11 percent for some time," Perera said. "So the thought was that rather than trying to increase the efficiency, let's try to make to make the technology more green."
To make the solar cells greener and more efficient, Perera begins with the bacteria Mycobacterium smegmatis. A mycrobacterium is a type of pathogen that can cause diseases such as tuberculosis. Perera is using a species that is completely harmless and can be found in soil and cornflakes. It also produces the protein MspA, which can be used for numerous applications once it has been chemically purified.
After purification, Perera combines the protein with a synthesized dye that is less toxic than traditional dyes. The protein-dye mixture is coated onto individual solar cells -- which form large solar panels when assembled -- and is then tested with artificial sunlight to measure energy output.
"The idea is that the protein acts as a matrix for electron transfer for this dye that absorbs sunlight," Perera said. "We want the protein to be able to capture the electron that the dye gives out and then transfer that electron in one direction, thereby generating an electrical current."
Although the new dye-sensitized solar cells currently do not improve on the technology's ability to convert sunlight into electrical current, the technology is the first of its kind and could help low-cost solar cells become a more viable option in the alternative energy field.
"This type of research where you have a biodegradable or environmentally friendly component inside a solar cell has not been done before, and the research is still in its early stages right now," Perera said. "But we have noticed that it's working and that means that the protein is not decomposed in the light and electric generating conditions. Because of that we believe that we've actually made the first protein-incorporated solar cell."
In February, Perera was one of two Kansas State University graduate students named a winner at the ninth annual Capitol Graduate Research Summit in Topeka. She received a $500 scholarship from KansasBio and will present her poster, "Design of a 'Greener' Solar Cell using Mycobacterial Protein MspA," at the organization's board of director's meeting in May.
Perera said the summit benefited her research because it gave her the chance to share her work with state legislators in addition to the scientific community. As a result, legislators can understand the work and how it affects Kansas.
"We know that fossil fuels are going to run out in the very near future," Perera said. "Kansas is getting a reputation as one of the central places in the U.S. for alternative energy research because of the abundance of sunlight and wind. I want to contribute to that and to the betterment of humanity with this research."
Ayomi Perera, email@example.com
Ayomi Perera | Newswise Science News
Two holograms in one surface
12.12.2017 | California Institute of Technology
Large-scale battery storage system in field trial
11.12.2017 | FIZ Karlsruhe – Leibniz-Institut für Informationsinfrastruktur GmbH
Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.
To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...
The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.
Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...
With innovative experiments, researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrums Geesthacht and the Technical University Hamburg unravel why tiny metallic structures are extremely strong
Light-weight and simultaneously strong – porous metallic nanomaterials promise interesting applications as, for instance, for future aeroplanes with enhanced...
An interdisciplinary group of researchers interfaced individual bacteria with a computer to build a hybrid bio-digital circuit - Study published in Nature Communications
Scientists at the Institute of Science and Technology Austria (IST Austria) have managed to control the behavior of individual bacteria by connecting them to a...
Physicists in the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics (run jointly by LMU Munich and the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics) have developed an attosecond electron microscope that allows them to visualize the dispersion of light in time and space, and observe the motions of electrons in atoms.
The most basic of all physical interactions in nature is that between light and matter. This interaction takes place in attosecond times (i.e. billionths of a...
11.12.2017 | Event News
08.12.2017 | Event News
07.12.2017 | Event News
12.12.2017 | Life Sciences
12.12.2017 | Information Technology
12.12.2017 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation