Self-Repairing Solar Cells Mimic Photosynthesis
MIT Photosynthetic solar cells can repair themselves thereby continually operating at peak efficiency and never wearing out
The photosynthetic process and the sunlight-capturing molecular activity have been the envy of scientists and engineers looking to create increasingly efficient solar cells. During photosynthesis, plants routinely convert sunlight into stored energy. During this process, the plant breaks down and rebuilds its sunlight-capturing molecules so that the molecules are always new and as efficient as they can be. The possibilities would be thrilling should someone succeed in replicating those processes when creating solar cells to produce electricity. Those thrilling possibilities are one step closer according to a paper published September 5 in Nature Chemistry.
A research team from MIT has managed to mimic the photosynthetic molecular break-down and reassembly process using a system that includes synthetic molecules called phospholipids, carbon nanotubes, and a series of proteins. The phospholipids form into disks that create supporting structures for other light-responsive molecules, which then release electrons. The disks attach themselves to carbon nanotubes, which uniformly line up the disks to allow them to evenly capture solar energy as sunlight. As the electrons are released, the highly conductive nanotubes act as wires to direct the electron flow to produce electric current.
Like its photosynthetic inspiration, the MIT molecular solar cells continually break down and reassemble themselves. The result are solar cells that always operates at peak efficiency, and never wear out.