When it comes to creating clean, self-sustaining energy, nothing can beat plants–and that’s precisely why researchers at the University of Georgia (UGA) have worked so hard to hijack photosynthesis to create truly clean electricity.
Talk about green energy. Get it? It’s a “solar plant!”
OK, I’ll stop.
During photosynthesis, plants use sunlight to split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen, which produces electrons. Typically, plants take these electrons to create life-sustaining sugars. The UGA research team, led by Assistant Professor Ramaraja Ramasamy, discovered a way to intercept these electrons, allowing them to “harvest” electricity from plants.
To do this, the researchers manipulated the proteins contained within the plant’s thylakoids, tiny structures that capture and store energy from sunlight. From there, the scientists essentially rerouted the plant’s natural electron pathways to a series of carbon nanotubes that act as an electrical conductor.
These green generators don’t produce much energy–about a maximum current density of 68 microamps per centimeter squared. However, the scientists say that “in small-scale experiments, this approach resulted in electrical current levels that are two orders of magnitude larger than those previously reported in similar systems.”