Improved Semi-Artificial Leaf Developed
With how much energy comes to Earth as Sunlight, it is not surprising that we are working on ways to capture and harness it for our own uses. While some means for doing this do exist, we are still searching for better methods, such replicating Nature's photosynthesis, which is a rather efficient process. Researchers at Ruhr-University Bochum have recently succeeded in creating a semi-artificial leaf that could help bring about cheap and flexible solar cells in the future.
Semi-artificial leafs that use photosystem 1 (PS1) for absorbing light, instead of a semiconductor, have been worked on before, but PS1 has a special complicating factor. It possesses both hydrophilic and hydrophobic domains, which makes it difficult to keep immobile on electrodes. To solve the problem, the researchers created a hydrogel matric, which can have its own hydrophobic/hydrophilic properties shifted by adjusting pH levels.
The resulting semi-artificial leaf outperformed other semi-artificial bio-photoelectrodes, but also bested Nature with an electron transfer rate ten times greater. Though modern, semiconductor photovoltaics are still superior, that may change in the future, and for now the bio-photovoltaics may find use in micro-scale medical devices.