Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Re-inventing nature for cheaper solar power

31.08.2006
A research team in Sydney has created molecules that mimic those in plants which harvest light and power life on Earth.

“A leaf is an amazingly cheap and efficient solar cell,” says Dr Deanna D’Alessandro, a postdoctoral researcher in the Molecular Electronics Group at the University of Sydney. “The best leaves can harvest 30 to 40 percent of the light falling on them. The best solar cells we can build are between 15 and 20 percent efficient, and expensive to make.”

“We’ve recreated some of the key systems that plants use in photosynthesis,” says Deanna.

Bacteria and green plants use photosynthesis to convert light energy into usable chemical energy. Wheel-shaped arrays of molecules called porphyrins collect light and transfer it to the hub where chemical reactions use the light energy to convert carbon dioxide into energy-rich sugar and oxygen.

“This process, which occurs in about 40 trillionths of a second is fundamental to photosynthesis and is at the base of the food chain for almost all life on Earth,” says Deanna.

“We have been able to construct synthetic porphyrins. More than 100 of them can be assembled around a tree-like core called a dendrimer to mimic the wheel-shaped arrangement in natural photosynthetic systems.”

These molecules designed by the team are about 1 trillionth the size of a soccer ball. But the large number of porphyrins in a single molecule means that a significant amount of light can be captured and converted to electrical energy – just like in nature.

“Since they are so efficient at storing energy, we think they could also be used as batteries – replacing the metal-based batteries that our high technology devices depend on today,” Deanna says.

“Our preliminary results are very promising. We are still in the early stages of building practical solar energy devices using our molecules,” said Deanna. “The challenge is immense, but is crucial to providing alternative energy solutions for Australia and the world.”

Now they’ve made the molecules, the team along with their Japanese collaborators at Osaka University are working to combine them in the equivalent of a plant cell. Then, over the next five years they will attempt to scale up the technology to commercial scale solar panels.

Deanna D’Alessandro is one of 16 Fresh Scientists who are presenting their research to school students and the general public for the first time thanks to Fresh Science, a national program hosted by the Melbourne Museum and sponsored by the Federal and Victorian governments, British Council and New Scientist. One of the Fresh Scientists will win a trip to the UK courtesy of the British Council to present his or her work to the Royal Institution.

Niall Byrne | alfa
Further information:
http://www.scienceinpublic.com/sciencenow/deanna_alessandro.htm

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Dune ecosystem modelling
23.06.2017 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

nachricht Understanding animal social networks can aid wildlife conservation
23.06.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Gewässerökologie und Binnenfischerei (IGB)

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Quantum thermometer or optical refrigerator?

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A 100-year-old physics problem has been solved at EPFL

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Equipping form with function

23.06.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>