Friday, 27 February 2009

Plant power

Do you remember your biology lessons?  All about photosynthesis?  We used to do an experiment that involved taping a piece of foil on to a plant's green leaf.  After a time we tested the leaf for starch, and lo and behold, the leaf that had been hidden from the sun had no starch. And that was supposed to prove that green leaves needed the sun to produce starch using the magical process of photosynthesis.

Although that seems something of a leap of faith now (how? why? couldn't foil have some mystical de-starching properties?), at the age of 12 it seemed a satisfactory demonstration and amazing that plants could change sunlight into starch.  Green plants can do this, trap the power of the sun and convert it into food.  It is the original green energy, a source of solar power, though we didn't think to call it that then.

How great it would be if we could use green plants as sources of solar power, or if we could trap energy in the same way that they do.  It isn't so very far fetched as it might seem.  Scientists have used nano-technology to create devices that mimic the functions of the molecules involved in the photosynthesis cycle.  They have made a  photovoltaic device that can absorb light and efficiently convert it to electric current.

"These are early days but the possibilities for the application of this technology for environmentally-friendly energy production are very exciting."

You can read the research paper in Physical Review Letters.  I don't think I'll attempt it myself because I can't even understand the title: Photocurrent Enhancement in Hybrid Nanocrystal Quantum-Dot p-i-n Photovoltaic Devices.


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  1. That's an amazing thing. I hope it goes mainstream.

  2. Nature never stops amazing me and this is a good example - thanks for sharing!

    Wishing you a great end to your week :-)

  3. A, sadly huge tracts of virgin jungle and rain forest are ripped up to grow oil palms(bio fuel) in this part of the world.

    It would be great if something like this could be used instead.

  4. My first thought was all the trees being ripped up for paper and land tracts. This would be so awesome.

  5. It would be exciting if we can eventually tap on a source of energy that is environmental friendly. Recently there have been a frequent occurrence of bush fires here in Singapore because the weather was unusually hot and dry comparing to past year. Whether or not directly connected with the change in the environment, we must play our part to take care of our planet ... come to think of it, is it ours to begin with or we are just mere occupants.

    It is sad to know that these bush fires are mostly created by human.

  6. @Solomon, it's an amazing thought, that something I would have considered to be verging on sci-fi could soon become reality.

    @Renny, nature is incredible, and even more so that we can think of imitating it!

    @Mike, do they really tear up forest for bio-fuel? Isn't that more or less defeating the object?

    @ettarose, awesome is right. It almost doesn't seem possible. I'm wondering what the downside will be.

    @BK, so exciting! I very much agree that we need to take care of the planet. It's not ours alone, but we must be the caretakers.


Forethoughts, afterthoughts, any thoughts. Tell me.


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