British researchers advance solar cells based on algae

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In the United Kingdom, researchers at the University of Cambridge have developed more-efficient solar cells based on algae.

“Photosynthesis generates a flow of electrons that keeps plants, algae and other photosynthetic organisms alive,” Paolo Bombelli, a post-doctoral researcher in the Department of Biochemistry and an author of the paper, tells Market Business News. “These electrons flow though biological wires and, like the electrical current obtained from a battery and used to power a radio, they are the driving force for any cellular activity.”

Biophotovoltaic cells, like those based on algae, are an attractive alternative to traditional solar cells because they are more environmentally friendly and have the ability to repair themselves. However, such biological cells still lag their synthetic counterparts in efficiency.

The Cambridge team was able to improve the efficiency of their biophotovoltaic by separating the compartments in which charging and power deliver occur. Their cell achieved power density five times greater than previous algae-based cells, although the output remains about one tenth of a conventional cell.

The team published their work in a recent issue of Nature Energy.

British researchers advance solar cells based on algae