Athens, Ga. – The sun provides the most abundant source of energy on the planet. However, only a tiny fraction of the solar radiation on Earth is converted into useful energy.
To help solve this problem, researchers at the University of Georgia looked to nature for inspiration, and they are now developing a new technology that makes it possible to use plants to generate electricity.
“Clean energy is the need of the century,” said Ramaraja Ramasamy, assistant professor in the UGA College of Engineering and the corresponding author of a paper describing the process in the Journal of Energy and Environmental Science. “This approach may one day transform our ability to generate cleaner power from sunlight using plant-based systems.”
Plants are the undisputed champions of solar power. After billions of years of evolution, most of them operate at nearly 100 percent quantum efficiency, meaning that for every photon of sunlight a plant captures, it produces an equal number of electrons. Converting even a fraction of this into electricity would improve upon the efficiency seen with solar panels, which generally operate at efficiency levels between 12 and 17 percent.