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North Carolina researchers demonstrate ‘artificial leaf’ that produces electricity

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Dr. Orlin Velev, a chemical and Bio-molecular Engineer at North Carolina State University, has begun developing a bendable devices that are constructed of water-based gel infused together with light-sensitive molecules (like plant chlorophyll), coupled with electrodes coated by carbon elements. These flexible solar cells have the potential to be less expensive and more beneficial to our environment than the present standard silicon based solar cells.

North Carolina researchers demonstrate how water based ‘artificial leaf’ produces electricity

Are you aware that a North Carolina State University staff has shown that water gel-based solar devices (known as: “artificial leaves”) can act like solar cells to make electricity?

The analysis has been published on-line within the Journal of Materials Chemistry by Dr. Orlin Velev, an Invista Professor associated with Chemical and Bio-molecular Engineering.

The studies prove the concept for making solar cells that more closely imitate nature. They also have the potential to be less expensive and more beneficial to our environment than the present standard silicon based solar cells.

The bendable devices are composed of water-based gel infused together with light-sensitive molecules (like plant chlorophyll) coupled with electrodes coated by carbon elements, such as carbon nanotubes or graphite.

Graphene is the fundamental structural element of some carbon allotropes including graphite, carbon nanotubes and fullerenes. Graphene is a 1-atom thick planar sheet of carbon atoms that are densely packed in a honeycomb crystal lattice. The name comes from graphite ene; graphite itself consists of several graphene sheets piled together.

The light-sensitive molecules get “excited” by the sun’s rays to create electricity, similar to plant molecules that get excited to synthesize all kinds of sugar in order to grow.

Dr. Velev affirms that the analysis team hopes to “learn how to imitate the materials where nature harnesses solar power.” Although manufactured light-sensitive molecules can be used, Velev says naturally made products, like chlorophyll, are also quickly integrated in these devices because of their particular water-gel matrix.

Velev even imagines a future in which rooftops could be covered with soft sheets of similar energy-generating synthetic-leaf photo voltaic cells. The concept of biologically inspired ‘soft’ units for generating electricity may possibly in the future present an alternative for the present-day solid-state technologies.

About the Author: C. J. Mcguire creates for the solar fountains blog, her personal hobby web log focused on suggestions to help property owners to spend less energy with solar power.

Reference: Aqueous soft matter based solar devices. Journal of Materials Chemistry, 2011; DOI: http://pubs.rsc.org/en/Content/ArticleLanding/2011/JM/c0jm01820a

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This entry was posted on Monday, November 26th, 2018 at 7:15 pm and is filed under Articles.

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