Solar Cells Made from Grass Clippings

MIT researcher Andreas Mershin has invented a method for creating solar cells for solar panels from the photosynthesizing molecules in grass clippings and dead leaves. Called photosystem I, these molecules contains chlorophyll, and can be mixed onto a flat piece of glass with zinc oxide nanowires and titanium oxide, which absorb and transmit electricity. Using his method, the conventional photovoltaic cells are replaced with the plant-based mixture.

Right now, the amount of electricity generated by his ‘electric nanoforest’ is very small and needs to be increased tenfold to become a useful form of solar power. However, he hopes other researchers will take his new plant-based technology and improve it, so eventually people will be able to use their grass clippings, dead leaves or other plant waste and place it in a plastic bag containing the right chemicals in order to create the material for making cheap solar panels. Clearly this invention would probably have its best application in areas that are off the grid, and developing nations where large solar power installations could remain too expensive to install for some years.

A similar technology is the solar oven, which helps low-income people cook food without having to be exposed to harmful smoke and risk injury from fires. Indoor air pollution has been estimated to be related to about two million deaths per year. Also, less trees are cut down and burned which is better for forests,  wild animals and reducing carbon emissions.

The number of people without access to electricity is enormous. In 2009 that total was estimated to be 1.3 billion, by the International Energy Agency. Energy access is a key component to poverty alleviation, because without electricity, there is no access to the Internet, no easy way for students to study after sundown, lack of access to cheap study  materials, etc. – all of which reinforce low education levels.

Image Credit: Ed.Markovich/ Public Domain

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87 comments

Eternal Gardener
Eternal Gardener7 years ago

Now that is what I call green innovativeness!

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Sarah M.
Sarah M7 years ago

cool

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Tom Rose
Thomas Rose7 years ago

Fascinating and so ingenious. Human resourcefullness has no boundries!

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GA C.
G C7 years ago

Very interesting! Thanks for the article.

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Howard C.
.7 years ago

Sounds like a really good idea. I have 16 conventional solar panels fitted to my property, these have reduced my electricity bill by 30%, and my carbon footprint as well.

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KS Goh
KS Goh7 years ago

Thanks for the article.

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Carmen S.
Carmen S7 years ago

very interesting, thanks

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Armand B.
Past Member 7 years ago

Sounds promising....thank you

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Kim Crumpler
Kim Crumpler7 years ago

less hope this idea grows.

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Teresa Cowley
Teresa Cowley7 years ago

Well, this is different--good, and I like it, but different.

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