Looking to Nature for Solar Energy Efficiency
Nature is old and has been conducting experiments far longer than man. In fact, man is just the result of an experiment by Nature. Now man is looking to benefit from other experiments by studying the light-capturing method of some deep-sea bacteria which can achieve 98% efficiency for harvesting sunlight.
Using double-walled nanotubes, researchers at MIT, Humboldt University of Berlin, the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Groningen have emulated the light receptors of green sulfur bacteria. These nanotubes are able to self-assemble like other nanostructures, but do so with great purity. This is a major benefit to the researchers as they do not need to separate out the highest quality nanotubes, because they are all high quality.
As part of the study, the researchers deactivated one of two walls of the nanotube. This was important to answer the question of how if the two walls work together or can be considered separate systems. The latter is the case and it is this kind of information that is of interest. The nanotubes themselves are not something that could be used for solar power production (at least at this time) but what can be learned from them could greatly improve other solar power technologies, which are closer to 20% efficiency than 98%.