Bio-Solar Technology Research

The leading innovator in the field of of bio-solar technology research is University of Tennessee professor Barry D. Bruce, whom Forbes magazine called one of “Ten Revolutionaries Who May Change the World” in 2007.  Bruce, who is a professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Cellular and Molecular Biology in Knoxville, is a leading expert in sustainable energy research; his work focuses on adapting the biological machinery in plants to produce electricity and biofuels.  Applying biology to solve practical problems is what bio-solar technology is all about.

Dr. Bruce uses plants’ photosynthetic processes to produce efficient and inexpensive energy rather than relying on the traditional materials used in conventional solar panels.  In collaboration with researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Ecole Polytechnique Federale in Switzerland, Bruce and his team have developed a process to generate electric power using molecular structures extracted from plants – a breakthrough that has the potential to make solar energy dramatically cheaper and easier to access.   

Bio-Solar Technology:  How Does It Work?

According to a website highlighting the research of many of today’s prominent scientists, Bruce describes his interest in “a how we may exploit the ultra efficient process of solar energy capture and conversion of natural photosynthesis into hybrid devices that will provide either direct photovoltaic electricity or be stored in some form of fuel such as molecular hydrogen. To date we have help design build and characterize novel: 1) luminescent solar concentrators, 2) hybrid Bio-organic thin-film photovoltaic devices, 3) hydride bio-inorganic photovoltaic devices, and 4) bio-Pt hydrogen evolving nanoparticles.

What that translates to mean is that Bruce and his team use bioengineered blue-green algae to interact with a metallic semi-conductor to generate electricity in a similar way to the photo-voltaic cells which are used in traditional solar panels. One of the obvious benefits of this technology is that it utilizes completely natural products to generate electricity, while most standard photo-voltaic solar cells are constructed of man-made materials.   For example, the active layers in a photovoltaic panel include the positively and negatively charged silicon layers, charge-collecting layers (a grid of metal wires on the top and a flat metal layer on the bottom), an anti-reflecting layer and a glass window on top.   A large amount of energy is also required to produce traditional solar panels while the bio-solar cells are constructed of naturally occurring materials. 

Bio-Solar Technology:  The Future is Now

This technology has the ability to produce truly clean, emission free solar energy anywhere in the world where plants are able to grow.  That is almost everywhere.  While this technology is still very much in the developmental stages, the possibilities are endless once it can be perfected.  

And Bruce is not the only bio-solar researcher whose work has implications for the future of solar energy.  Scientists at Harvard, for example, have created a bionic leaf that works with a catalyst and bacteria to convert carbon dioxide and hydrogen into a liquid fuel called isopropanol.  They’re almost at a 1% efficiency rate of turning sunlight into fuel, recreating the efficiency of photosynthesis.   Researchers at Stanford are exploring new crystalline substances that could be used to supplement the silicon used in PV panels in order to increase the efficiency of solar cells. Others are investigating the impact of different materials and colors of solar panels on energy efficiency.

It is clear that the future of solar energy is assured and that technological innovation will continue to impact both the cost and efficiency of solar energy installations.  Americans are increasingly aware of the potential of renewable energy to both reduce the nation’s dependence on fossil fuels — both foreign and domestic sources — and decrease emissions of climate-changing greenhouse gases and other pollutants. As a result,  the use of solar and wind power are the fastest growing sources of electricity in the US.  For now, homeowners and businesses relying on existing solar energy systems will save money as well as positively impact the environment knowing that new innovations will only make their solar systems even more efficient in the future.   If you are looking to go solar with your home, don’t wait any longer.  Learn more by contacting one of our solar experts at Venture Home Solar.