Summary:

While there are a lot easier ways to make solar cells, there’s not as many as bizarre as this one: squishing up jelly fish. Out of Sweden, researchers have discovered a way to use a protein from a common jellyfish to create a solar cell.

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While there are a lot easier ways to make solar cells, there’s not as many as bizarre as this one: squishing up jelly fish. Out of Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden, researchers have discovered a way to use a protein from a common jellyfish to create a solar cell.

The research looks at how green fluorescent protein in this jelly fish, Aequorea victoria, can coax electrons from sunlight. It turns out, the protein, can self-assemble and produce electrons when it’s placed between two layers of aluminum electrodes and exposed to ultraviolet light.

The researcher, Zackary Chiragwandi, told CNN that the device he’s created can produce “tens of nano amperes.” Yes, that’s a tiny amount and won’t make this technology a serious contender for conventional solar cell materials such as more commonly-used silicon and cadmium-telluride. Chiragwandi also said he can substitute jelly fish with fireflies and other organisms.

The use of light-sensitive biological materials to generate electricity isn’t new, and it falls into the same category as dye-sensitized solar cell research. A well-known researcher in this field, Michael Grätzel, won the 2010 Millennium Technology Prize (€800,000) for his work, which has become synonymous with dye-sensitized cell.

Grätzel’s research has been turned into commercial products, though the technology so far has shown up in more novelty gadgets such as solar backpacks. Dye-sensitized solar cells have low efficiencies, so they aren’t suitable generating electricity to power a home or business. On the other hand, some developers of such technology are looking at replacing batteries rather than solar electric systems on the rooftops. Researchers at the University of Washington have been investigating the use of dye-sensitized solar cells on aircrafts, and that could be used by the military to power, say, unmanned aircrafts that have been popular in the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Image courtesy of Hodgers.

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