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

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Warren Webber
Warren Webber3 years ago

Live long and prosper

Danuta Watola
Danuta W5 years ago

thanks for sharing

Jan van Leeuwen
Jan van Leeuwen5 years ago

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.

Carmen S.
Carmen S5 years ago

very interesting, thanks

Dave C.
David C5 years ago


Cindy B.
Cindy B5 years ago

THANK YOU JAKE. I adore spinach, BTW.

Winn Adams
Winn A5 years ago


Angela N.
Angela N5 years ago

thanks :)

patricia m lasek
patricia lasek5 years ago

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

Vernon W.
Vernon W5 years ago

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