Ever thought it’s such a waste throwing away that fresh bundle of cut grass or dead leaves from your backyard? Well, even if you didn’t, a use for them has now been found: Andreas Mershin, an MIT researcher, put them all together in a solar panel: mix them up with some cheap chemicals and lay them on your roof for spontaneous electricity.
The researcher was actually inspired by a very basic natural process: photosynthesis – plants using light to harvest energy. Mershin has put in place a system (photosystem I) that actually pulls out the molecules responsible for photosynthesis and used chlorophyll – the “star” protein – to transform photons into electrons.
After stabilization, the molecules get widely distributed on a glassy surface swarming with titanium dioxide “sponges” and zinc oxide nanowires. The first are busy converting the light into electricity, while the latter transfer it.
Unfortunately, if this seems to good to be true, it’s because it is: this solar panel offers an efficiency of 0.1%, compared to over 16 percent, which is the industry standard.
Mershin is not discouraged though, he is just content of having laid the basis for further scientists to enrich. The idea is to commercialize a plastic bag full of chemicals that just need to have agricultural waste added up and scattered on glass.