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Scientists Create First Bacteria-Powered Solar Panels To Produce Clean Energy

Apr 14, 2016 04:00 AM EDT

Scientists from Binghamton University have created bacteria-powered solar panels that can produce clean energy. This recent breakthrough in energy studies offers great potential for a long-term, reliable power source in remote areas.

On April 11, Binghamton University researchers used nine biological solar cells, also known as bio-solar cells, and connected them to a biological solar panel. This resulted in the continuous production of electricity from the panel. The amount of electricity it produced reached 5.59 watts, which is higher than what any small-scale bio-solar cells can produce.

The paper was entitled "Biopower generation in a microfluidic bio-solar panel" written by Seokheun "Sean" Choi, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering in Binghamton University's Thomas J. Watson School of Engineering and Applied Science together with graduating students Xuejian Wei and Hankeun Lee '15, graduating in May, according to Science Daily.

The researchers took the concept of using cyanobacteria, a phylum bacteria obtaining energy through photosynthesis to produce clean energy, as per UCMP Berkeley.

This breakthrough came after the group's attempt last year to innovate the dual chambered bio-solar cell. They created a microfluidic-based, single-chambered device to house the bacteria. They even tried to change the materials on the positive and negative terminals of the bio-solar cell.

After a series of studies they now found a better way. So this year, using a 3x3 pattern, the group installed nine identical bio-solar cells to form a bio-solar panel, which they observed for 60 hours. Their observation showed the continuous production of electricity due to the bacteria's respiration and photosynthesis.

It may be a very low amount of energy production as it can only produce 0.00003726 watts while a regular 60-cell rooftop solar panel generates 285 watts, but the great potential on this discovery may lead to a more reliable energy source, as reported by Energy Matters.

"Once a functional bio-solar panel becomes available, it could become a permanent power source for supplying long-term power for small, wireless telemetry systems as well as wireless sensors used at remote sites where frequent battery replacement is impractical," said Seokheun "Sean" Choi.

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