Green electricity technology may be getting a significant boost from another green source: Plants. Barry D. Bruce, professor of biochemistry at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, is adding new meaning to the term “power plant.” Bruce and a team of researchers have developed a system that utilizes the photosynthetic process to produce inexpensive and efficient green energy.
"This system is a preferred method of sustainable energy because it is clean and it is potentially very efficient," says Bruce, who was named one of "Ten Revolutionaries that May Change the World" by Forbes magazine in 2007 for his early work, which demonstrated biosolar electricity generation.
The findings have the potential to make green electricity markedly cheaper, easier, and more accessible. The system self-assembles and is easier to re-create than his earlier work. In fact, the approach is simple enough that it can be replicated in most labs, allowing others around the world to work toward further optimization.
This green solar cell is a marriage of non-biological and biological materials. It consists of small tubes made of zinc oxide as the0 the non-biological material. These tiny tubes are bioengineered to attract PSI particles and quickly become coated with them—that's the biological part. Done correctly, the two materials intimately intermingle on the metal oxide interface, which when illuminated by sunlight, excites PSI to produce an electron which "jumps" into the zinc oxide semiconductor, producing an electric current.