Lahari Saha, a researcher at the University of Maryland in Baltimore County, is working on a novel method to increase the efficiency of solar panels. Her research focuses on harnessing plants' abilities to convert sunlight into chemical energy through biological molecules such as chlorophyll, which are exceptional at capture and converting sunlight into energy.
A new technique that makes use of plant compounds like chlorophyll may provide improvements.
Solar panels aren't very efficient; they are unable to convert up to 20 percent of the sun's energy into electricity, causing significant forest destruction or farms to be replaced by solar power. Larger panels would be able to generate the same amount of electricity, and would not take as much land.
Lahari Saha, from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, is developing solar panels that are more efficient. Her research will be presented at the 67th Annual Biophysical Society Meeting in San Diego, California on Wednesday, February 22.
Fluorophores induce an induced current in the metal, which is proportional to the magnitude of the fluorophore's extinction coefficient,. MEF – Metal-Enhanced Fluorescence PC – Plasmonic Current Cu – Copper metals
Saha explained that biological molecules can be used to generate electricity that can then be powered by devices or stored in batteries for later use. “Any sort of molecule that fluoresces or emits light. If we excite it, it can knock off electrons and generate electricity,” Saha explained. Each of these compounds is relatively inexpensive and easy to obtain from plants.
Saha believes that this type of fluorescence-based solar panel will be simpler to recycle. Currently, solar panels are relying on expensive materials like silicon and are contaminated with elements like l ead and cadmium—in most states, solar panels are considered hazardous waste when it is time to dispose of them. Plus, by selecting materials with longer lifespan, the solar panel will last longer.
Saha's top aim is to produce a solar panel that is less harmful, "so it doesn't have as big a footprint," she said. She believes her smaller solar panels will allow farms to maximize food production rather than generating electricity and will preserve forests.