Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Breakthrough Reached in Spinach-Silicon Powered Solar Panels

Spinach Protein Boosts Photovoltaic Output

A grant from the National Science Foundation is partly responsible for breakthroughs in solar renewable biohybrid energy research like this one at Vanderbilt Univ.  Researchers published a study in Advanced Materials this month documenting their findings that the photosystem 1 (PS1)protein originally discovered 40 or 50 years ago as the photosynthetic protein that generates energy when exposed to photons from sunlight can be  enhanced some 2.5 times more than previously known when combined with doped silicon film used in manufacturing solar panels (moving closer to rivaling current solar panel output efficiencies). Research like this could have far reaching practical applications in the solar photovoltaic module manufacturing business with cheaper solar panel modules made available from readily available materials like green leaves from evergreens or spinach leaves.  It moves us another step closer to the day when solar energy wins the cost/benefit analysis over fossil fuels without any need for arithmetic to compare costs. 

The evidence will be seen in lower cost per watt coming from readily available renewable material such as the PS1 photosynthetic protein from plants.  This should work to eliminate doubts even from Republicans who have been bashing solar renewable energy as a threat to their fossil fuel industry over-lords.  The American Petroleum Industry has spent a lot of money on ads this election about how energy voters can create new jobs and unleash an economic boom in the US if only they could extract more natural gas and oil from the ground rather than let the government invest in funding research like this study.  The funding for research like this is exactly what Barack Obama was talking about when he said "you didn't build that" implying that the solar panel manufacturer or integrator that installs panels and is successful wouldn't be able to do that with research like this that was originally funded by government.  The far right has gone so far as to  denigrate renewable energy solutions as impractical and a waste of government funding that needs to be cut.  The O'Reilly Factor went so far as to let guests bash the Chevrolet Volt (possibly the best vehicle engineering achievement of our modern generation since the space shuttle) with claims that it wasn't successful because it was dangerous and other nonsense that comes from Rush Limbaugh or Fox News.  That vehicle has been on the drawing board for a long time, and if that co had gone bankrupt, we would not be where we are today, and that car by the way has won car of the year for 2011 and continues to receive award after award for achievements as well as the highest highway safety ratings (but hey don't let facts get in the way of pushing a message sponsored by the fossil fuel industry).   We need more achievements in research like these spinach power solar cells or the Volt power plant which might lead to the first production model solar powered rechargeable vehicle with integrated solar module arrays built into the skin that becomes available in the US for  $25,000.  That kind of advancement comes from investment in research like the kind done here on spinach-silicon powered solar cells.

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