We cover quite a bit in this column in our quest to bring you (the reader) up to speed on the latest in solar policy, news and development. From solar cars, to government policy (or lack of) to the latest solar technology to hit our shores. But we’ve yet to talk vegetables, their obvious benefits and how this relates to solar power. This week we change all that.
This to whet your appetite about the latest solar research from the United States which has combined the natural photosynthesis properties of spinach with silicon to — theoretically at least — boost the performance of solar panels.
In a development which even that pioneer of spinach consumption Popeye could hardly have imagined, Vanderbilt University, Texas, scientists now say that:
“This combination [between spinach and silicon] produces current levels almost 1,000 times higher than we were able to achieve by depositing the protein on various types of metals. It also produces a modest increase in voltage.”
Perhaps a hint of Popeye’s solar/spinach thinking came in 1937 when he was crossing the desert in Popeye the Sailor Meets Ali Baba’s Forty Thieves: “If I had some bread I’d make a sandwich if I had a which,” he mutters as only he can. Perhaps he was thinking of spinach and the burning sun?
But philosophy aside, it seems the next step for the jubilant Vanderbilt researchers is to build a functioning PS1-silicon solar cell using the basic spinach design. The selection of spinach in these new “biohybrid” cells has proven to be an excellent choice with the plant increasing the electrical current as well as improving solar cell efficiency.
We look forward to shopping for these biohybrid solar cells in our local vegetable shop but what of the future? Solar vegetable gardens on the roof? Harvesting spinach solar cells in our own organic veggie gardens? What could be better? Permaculture on steroids.
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