Tuesday, January 25, 2011

plug into a tree for some electricity?.

Nature is the source everything we need, metals, raw material, food. Can it also provide us with electricity?

The ideal energy source should be clean from pollution and cheap to produce. Several scientists have turned to nature to find inspiration and the tools necessary to create such an alternative. Some have tried to use the photosynthesis to create electricity from sunlight.

Photosynthesis is the reaction where sunlight is translated into organic energy and electrons are released. This reaction is depending on chlorophyll, a pigment that catches the sun energy. It is present in plants, algae and cyanobacteria. It takes place in the chloroplasts, small organelles where all the chlorophylls are organized.

A scientific research group at Massachusets institute of technology, MIT, in Boston have developed a way to keep the chloroplasts in a natural configuration. They chose spinach as it is a vegetable that is rich in chlorophyll/have a high number of chloroplasts.

In order to obtain the chloroplasts, you have to mash the leaves into a fine mesh, and the centrifuge it in the presence of certain chemicals. This will produce separated liquid bands in where each liquid phase contain molecules and structure of specific sizes.

The liquid phase that contained molecules of the right size was enclosed inside a soap-like membrane made up of peptides (small proteins consisting of only a few amino acids) that love having water on one side, but hate it on the other. That kept the plant proteins functional and stable in their natural configuration in the power cell for up to three weeks. The battery only works when the sun is up, so it will be some kind of Dracula battery.

 "Nature has been doing this for billion years, we're now just taking baby step to use nature, to follow nature's lead, to convert the sunlight into electricity," the groupleader and professor Zhang says.


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