January 12, 2009

Photosynthesis drives solar fuel cell

Combine carbon, marine sediment, seawater and light and you've got a simple way to generate electricity from sunlight.

The proof-of-concept solar fuel cell is powered by graphite electrodes that are covered by microbe films and embedded in marine sediment. One type of microbe uses sunlight to turn carbon dioxide and water into glucose and oxygen. Another type of microbe converts the glucose and oxygen back into carbon dioxide and water, producing electricity in the process.

The fuel-cell waste -- carbon dioxide and water -- is recycled as input for the photosynthesis step.

Artificial photosynthesic devices produce small amounts of energy but are inexpensive. Microbial photosynthesic devices promise be long-lasting and durable because the biofilms can assemble and repair themselves.

Research paper:
A Self-Assembling Self-Repairing Microbial Photoelectrochemical Solar Cell
Energy & Environmental Science, published online January 6, 2009

Researchers' homepage:
Energy Harvesting Program, Center for Bio/Molecular Science and Engineering, Naval Research Laboratory

Back to ERN January 12/19, 2009



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