Many things come to mind when we think of plants. They can serve as a food source, oxygen I even decorations, But let’s say that using plants as a source of electrical energy is not at all easy to imagine.
However, it is now a reality. Researchers have succeeded for the first time in turning a succulent plant into a living “bio-solar cell”. works on the basis of Photosynthesis to generate electricity. The research was published in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces.
By harvesting electrons naturally carried within plant cells, scientists realized they could generate electricity as part of a living, biological photovoltaic cell.
It turns out that in all living things, from bacteria to animals, electrons are carried as part of natural biochemical processes, If there are electrodes to capture them, the cells can generate electricity that can be used elsewhere.
Previous research had already been able to build fuel cells with bacteria following a similar principle, but the microbes needed to be fed continuously. This time, scientists turned to photosynthesis to generate energy more easily.
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How can photosynthesis produce living electrical batteries?
during photosynthesis, Sunlight hits the leaves and causes electrons to flow through the water, resulting in the production of oxygen and sugar, This means that photosynthetic plant cells They continuously produce electricity that can be taken to power an external circuit.
especially, plants like succulents found in dry environments Thick cuticles store water and nutrients within their leaves and therefore have a great potential to generate energy.
The researchers then asked whether all this internal material could be used as an electrolyte solution. electrochemical cellAnd found that the answer is yes.
Using a specimen of Corpuscularia lehmannii, scientists were able to create a living solar cell with the help of iron anodes and platinum cathodes inserted in its leaves.
In addition, the team designed the experiment so that protons within the leaf’s internal solution can combine to form hydrogen gas at the cathode, this hydrogen can also be collected and used in other applications.
How effective is this “bio-solar cell”?
A single sheet was capable of producing a voltage of 0.28 V. was connected to a circuit that generated 20 µA/cm2 photocurrent, If exposed to light, the blade is able to generate a constant current like a real Living photovoltaic cell.
Although these numbers are less than those of an alkaline battery Traditionally, they represent a leaf. Adding multiple blades in series would increase the voltage and allow the technology to be applied on a larger scale.
It is worth remembering that these are only the first steps in a line of research that should continue for years to come. But as a whole, the energy generated and the collection of hydrogen can allow Development of sustainable and multifunctional technologies Like never seen before.
In the near future, this research could become a renewable energy farm, planting trees that sustainably supply the energy needs of urban centres. The only catch is that we’ll have to wait a few years to see what happens in the future.