Green plants could generate electricity

Green plants like grass could generate electricity according to researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

It might be some way off before we run our televisions and microwaves off lawn clippings, but within a few years villagers in remote, off-grid locations could start producing enough power to charge cell-phones and lanterns.

“Today the most widely used source of lighting in such locations is kerosene lanterns – the most expensive, unhealthy form of lighting there is,” says researcher Andreas Mershin.

“Night-time illumination is the number one way to get out of poverty, because it enables people who work in fields all day to read at night and gain an education.”

The research has extracted the protein from green plants at the centre of photosynthesis – the natural mechanism that captures the energy of sunlight to drive the workings of the plant. They have managed to stabilise it so that it works inside a solar panel rather than inside a living organism.

Mr Mershin’s ‘dream’ is that one day he could deliver a powder containing the special protein which could be applied to a piece of metal or glass. With two wires attached they would generate a current to produce electricity.

Babak Parvis, an associate professor of electrical engineering at the University of Washington says Mr Mershin’s research is a promising and creative first step towards building organic photovoltaic cells that use naturally produced cores – although the system does need further development to produce a useful amount of energy.

Visit Massachusetts Institute of Technology for more information.

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