When it comes to emerging science and technology, renewable energy is right up there as one of the most widely researched and often most impressive areas. Solar energy is considered the most viable form of renewable energy because of how abundant it is in our atmosphere but solar cells are far from cheap and they don’t have the longest life that one would hope for when fitting them to the home or anywhere else.
Sunlight and oxygen is a damaging combination, unfortunately, and as well as being the reason that paper discolours when left in the sun it is also one of the reasons why solar cells often have such a short lifespan.
Professor Strano and a team of scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (yes, MIT) have discovered a way of integrating the photosynthetic reaction centre utilised by plants into solar cells. The end result is a solar cell that can repair itself as it becomes damaged by the constant exposure to the sun’s rays.
The solar cell is unlike anything you see on roofs or on your 1980s calculator. They use synthetic molecules called phospholipids which attach themselves to carbon nanotubes. The nanotubes also channel the flow of electrons that are created from the reaction.
OK, so it’s not you average high school science lesson, but it is science essentially imitating something that nature has been perefcting over millenia and it will have a practical use.
The ability to self repair is something that sets nature apart from science and this looks like it could be several steps closer to bridging the gap between the two. Professor Strano is now looking for a way to improve the overall solar efficiency of the cells so that they collect more solar power.
Will we soon see self repairing solar cells on houses across the country?
Join us on Facebook and share your thoughts.