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Batteries powered by bacteria: printable solar cells that use cyanobacteria and carbon nanotubes.

April 18, 2018

YouTube video Science and more

Batteries powered by bacteria: printable solar cells that use cyanobacteria and carbon nanotubes.

Scientists at Imperial College London have successfully used cyanobacteria, bacteria that can convert the energy of light into electricity, to print circuits that can serve as solar cells by using a simple inkjet printer. By using the bacteria, they have overcome the main problem with conventional solar cells, which need constant sunlight to generate electricity. Solar cells printed with cyanobacteria can generate electric current in both darkness and light.

Cyanobacteria are microorganisms that produce food through photosynthesis. They use sunlight to create energy for survival, and that can be harnessed. They have been on Earth for billions of years and are believed to be the main reason why the Earth’s atmosphere is rich in oxygen. Researchers at Imperial College London, the University of Cambridge and Central Saint Martins designed this as an environmentally friendly power source for low power biosensors, which can even be extended to print a bioenergy wallpaper.

Our bio photovoltaic device is biodegradable and in the future it could serve as a disposable solar panel and a battery that can decompose in our compost or gardens. Economical batteries, accessible, respectful with the environment, biodegradable without heavy metals and plastics: this is what we and our environment really need, but we have not done it yet, and our work has shown that it is possible to have that. Bio-photovoltaic cells contain some type of cyanobacterium or algae that is phototrophic. This property allows them to convert light into energy.

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