Friday, June 11, 2010

Solar cells fake photosynthesis using berry juice

The Millennium Technology Prize, which is like the Nobel of the tech world, was given out Wednesday for a crazy solar cell that can make renewable energy on the cheap. The Graetzel's cell, named for prize-winner Michael Graetzel, eliminates the need for extensive manufacturing of solar cells by capturing the sun’s energy with a sort of artificial photosynthesis.

It works like this: an ultrathin layer of titanium-oxide nanoparticles is laid down and then covered with dye made from berries that absorbs the sunlight like chlorophyll in leaves. Simple enough, but it's a cool way to make a thin-film solar cell. And the simplicity means it can be made in mechanically sound, flexible sheets without worrying about trees falling on them or hail shattering its casing. It's not as efficient as the current photovoltaics in use, but it's cheap enough that it more than makes up for the loss of energy-per-foot.

The technology and resources needed for solar panels until now has kept our most abundant energy source from outcompeting fossil fuels, so there's some obvious money to be made if these can be produced large-scale. Supposedly, the EU has plans to incorporate them into its solar energy roadmap, so they may be a significant source of solar power in the next decade. Although, Graetzel won't need it too much, the prize comes with a million dollars.

Two people got runners up awards from the Millenium Prize: Sir Richard Friend (yes, he is a knight of physics) for his organic LEDs that made ebook readers a reality, and Stephen Furber who invented the microprocessors in our cell phones.

More on the invention:


  1. Very interesting information, thanks for the blog.

  2. These guys are real geniuses. I hope the winner's invention gets to be used soon.

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