Making Greener Solar Cells
Alternative energy sources such as wind and solar power are often touted as being very environmentally friendly, but even they can be made 'greener.' Researchers at Kansas State University have made the first protein-incorporated solar cell, which is safer for the environment and may be cheaper to manufacturer.
Dye-sensitized solar cells have existed for over 20 years and their current record for efficiency of roughly 11% has stood for some time now. These solar panels use a dye to absorb sunlight which allows them to be made in large sizes and at lower costs than traditional solid-state solar panels. The researchers have replaced the traditionally-used dyes with something friendlier to the environment and organisms. They have also added the protein MspA to act as a matrix for electron transfer. The result is a solar panel that is not any more efficient than its counterparts, but is safer for the environment and potentially cheaper.
As this is the first time biodegradable components have been used in a solar cell, we may see new innovations in the future. Until then, this alternative power source could easily become a more viable option.