It has been at least four years since scientists at the State University of New York-Binghamton developed a bacteria-powered battery on a single sheet of paper, able to power disposable electronic devices. These biobatteries were supposed to revolutionise the battery landscape, but they didn't.
Before that, in 2015, a fully integrated and self-powered system on paper was also developed so that it could work independently and in a self-sustainable manner as a low-cost solution in specific use cases. It was capable of generating power from microbial metabolism, delivering onboard energy to the next generation of paper-based systems with one drop of bacteria-containing liquid derived from renewable and sustainable water sources.
Now, researchers at the University of British Columbia (UBC) have found a cheap and sustainable way to build a solar cell using bacteria that convert light into energy, ScienceDaily reports. The cell generated a current stronger than any previously recorded from such a device and worked equally efficiently in low light and bright light. The innovation could be a step towards wider adoption of solar power in places where overcast skies are common.
It has already been demonstrated that bacteria can produce energy from sunlight through photosynthesis. Certain bacteria produce a chemical that makes it possible and scientists have put these chemicals into solar cells although it is a complicated process.
However, the UBC research group did the smart thing and used the bacteria directly, with their chemicals intact. These chemicals are a form of dye that turns light into energy. The bacteria used in this case are none other than Escherichia coli, or E. coli, that cause so much trouble to humans in everyday life.
According to the report, the new method is not quite as robust as traditional solar energy, but it has the distinct advantage of being able to cope with lower light in addition to bright sunlight.
The use of bacteria for solar energy is also thought to be more economical, which the researchers (Indians are among them) demonstrated with the density of the biogenic cells.