Researchers from Georgia Tech and Purdue have created what just might be green technology's most renewable resource ever. Solar cells made from trees. Oh, and they're recyclable in regular tap water. Bernard Kippelen, director of Georgia Tech’s Center for Organic Photonics and Electronics, explains why this is important:
"Organic solar cells must be recyclable. Otherwise we are simply solving one problem, less dependence on fossil fuels, while creating another, a technology that produces energy from renewable sources but is not disposable at the end of its lifecycle."
Solar cells have always been generally based on the principle of photosynthesis, the chemical process by which plants of all kinds absorb and use the sun's energy. How fitting then, that these new man-made solar cells are made up of the same basic organic substrates. These solar cells convert 2.7 percent of the energy they receive into electricity, an unheard of number for organic materials.
Equally impressive is that these organic substrates are mounted upon a substance called cellulose nanocrystal, an easily biodegradable structure that allows for the solar cells to simply be washed away in warm water at the end of their functional life. Renewable energy produced with renewable resources that's completely recyclable and environmentally friendly: now that's a green technology. And the joint research team isn't done yet, since their next goal will be to increase energy conversion efficiency into double-digits. If all goes well, production if these cells could go full-scale within five years.
Think of it: millions of cheap and recyclable solar cells, created with resources that will never become finite or exhausted. If they are ever damaged or break down, you could simply wash them down the drain and swap in some new ones. Of course, precautions would have to be taken against things like rainwater: one big storm and your whole power grid could be washed down the drain. Literally.
Via Georgia Tech