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Solar Power from Spinach?

Solar Power from Spinach?

Going green never tasted so good. Engineering students from Vanderbilt University have designed a type of solar panel using a protein from spinach, instead of costly silicon wafers. Photosystem I (PSI), the protein in plant choloroplasts which converts light to energy, was extracted from spinach. Then the team placed it in many cells to make a bio-photovoltaic medium. Two panels were created made up of 24 cells, and each cell measured 75 x 38 mm.

“The team absolutely excelled in clearly presenting their engineering innovations to the public. From the first minutes of the competition, they generated a buzz that rapidly spread across vast P3 exhibition space. We were one of only two teams (out of 44) to win three awards,” said Kane Jennings, professor of chemical
engineering at Vanderbilt. (Source:

The students won a Marketplace Innovation Award from Paladin Capital, and the Student Choice Award. They also won a Phase II $90,000 grant at the 8th Annual National Sustainable Design Expo. Eric Dilbone, Phil Ingram, Trevan Locke, Paul McDonald and Jason Ogg comprised the senior design team. The next phases of their work will be carried out by new seniors next year, and will likely include creating the process and hardware for producing functioning solar cells using the biohybrid design in larger numbers.

An MIT scientist also used Photosystem I proteins to make solar cells, but his plant material came from grass clippings and dead leaves. His biohybrid solar cells produced very little energy, but he hoped that by collaborating with other researchers they might be able to increase the output tenfold.

Image Credit: Victor M. Vicente Selvas / Wiki Commons

Related Links
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Solar Panels Could be Cheaper than TVs

Read more: Green, Lawns & Gardens, Nature, News & Issues, Technology

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2:15PM PST on Nov 14, 2014

Live long and prosper

3:34AM PDT on Oct 28, 2012

thanks for sharing

4:43AM PDT on Sep 16, 2012

Here is the one that deserves the credit, he has been working on this for over 20 years.
Let us hope that he really gets the credit for it because nowadays patents get snatched away by greedy trolls and the ones that did the work are left with nothing, due to the completely corrupted US patentsystem.

6:45PM PDT on May 4, 2012

very interesting, thanks

6:12PM PDT on May 3, 2012


1:31PM PDT on May 3, 2012

THANK YOU JAKE. I adore spinach, BTW.

12:04PM PDT on Apr 30, 2012


8:15AM PDT on Apr 30, 2012

thanks :)

6:04AM PDT on Apr 28, 2012

What wonderful news! Here's another reason to value the education of the young.

12:58AM PDT on Apr 28, 2012

It is not clear if this method is more efficient and cheaper than silicon.

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