Houseplants: The solar cells of tomorrow

Photosynthesis is a pretty basic process that scientists have understood for quite a while. But a recent breakthrough in the collection of solar energy just might have a few members of the scientific community dusting off their biology textbooks. A team of researchers at the University of Georgia have reportedly figured out how to harness photosynthesis in the creation of electricity.

It's actually something that it turns out is pretty intuitive, because of the way plants use solar energy to feed themselves is by splitting up water molecules and using the electrons in the creation of sugars. But the research team at the University of Georgia decided that a better use of those electrons, freed by plants from water molecules, were better off powering our devices for us.

And it's hard to argue with their results. By attaching incredibly fine nanotubules to plant cells and drawing the electrons from them, the team has been able to direct the electrons down a wire as electrical current. Testing the strength of the current, they found that it was twice as powerful as electricity gathered from traditional solar cells of the same size.

Not bad for a technology in its infancy. While the process of affixing nanotubules leaves a bit to be desired from an ease of use standpoint, the team at the University of Georgia envisions a world where our electricity needs are met by plant-based electrical grids. Houseplants could power our computers. Trees could keep our refrigerators running. If they're right, the future might just have gotten a whole lot greener.

RSC Publishing, via Inhabitat

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