Cow Brain Protein - Renewable Energy for the Future?
We've heard about cow manure use in renewable energy technology, but how about the idea of using cow brains? The concept may have a decidedly high ‘ick’ factor for some, but cow brains are rich in a protein that may provide the means to build inorganic nanostructures useful for batteries and solar cells.
Dr. Sarah Heilshorn and colleagues at Stanford Institute of Materials and Energy Science have been studying clathrin, a key protein in cellular biology. Cells are particularly adept at building tiny structures used in the creation of complex molecules. Clathrin primarily functions as part of the cell’s transport system, delivering molecular ‘cargo’ to the cell’s interior. As far as its potential use in alternative energy, though, it’s the protein’s outside structure that has scientists intrigued.
Clathrin is abundant in cow brain tissue. When extracted and adjusted for pH and other variables, clathrin assembles itself into a variety of skeletal structures such as cubes, spheres, barrels, and tetrahedral. This makes clathrin very useful in creating a template structure to which scientists can add inorganic atoms and molecules to produce catalysts and electrodes. These nanoscopic materials could then be used to make batteries and solar cells.
Using clathrin from cow brain tissue is indeed an innovative approach in the ongoing search for clean, renewable energy.