By Cameron Chai
A doctoral student of Kansas University, Ayomi Perera has developed greener dye-sensitized solar cells using a bacterium. Dye-sensitized solar cells usually use a dye for producing energy from sunlight. Perera, under the guidance of Prof. Stefan Bossmann, Department of Chemistry, has used a dye with low toxicity to obtain an environment-friendly solar cell.
Perera used the bacteria, Mycobacterium smegmatis, which is a non pathogen and is present in cornflakes and soil. She used the protein MspA produced from the bacterium. This protein can be used for many purposes after purification.
This purified protein was mixed with the low toxic dye and then, the mixture was coated on the solar cells. Further, the solar cells were assembled to form solar panels. Finally, the solar panels were measured for energy output using artificial sunlight.
Perera stated that the protein functions as an electron transfer matrix for the dye and informed that she wanted the protein to trap the electron released from the dye and transfer the electron in a single direction to produce an electrical current.
Even though the novel solar cells do not enhance the conversion of sunlight to electrical current, the technology can help in producing affordable solar cells.
Perera added that the protein does not decompose in sunlight and power producing conditions. Hence, it is believed that the protein-integrated solar cell is the first of its kind.