Increasing Photocurrents in Biosolar Cells using Microporous Electrodes - A Feasibility Study

Lead Research Organisation: Bangor University
Department Name: Sch of Chemistry


Solar energy (or photovoltaic energy) offers a technology for large scale energy generation which avoids the pitfalls of existing fossil fuel methods where coal, oil or gas which, when burnt, generate huge amounts of carbon dioxide which causes climate change along with other undesirable waste products (e.g. sulfur dioxide which causes acid rain). Solar energy can be captured in a number of ways (e.g. using crystalline or amorphous silicon or gallium arsenide solar cells). These solar cells can be fabricated to be very efficient (for instance for use in space applications). However, their major drawback is that they are expensive both in monetary terms and in terms of the energy used to produce them. This leads to longer pay-back times for this type of technology.Nature has developed its own form of solar cells in the form of photosynthesis which is sufficiently effective to support the entire plant-based biosphere of the planet. Photosynthesis operates by light being absorbed to create an electrical potential difference when water is split into oxygen, protons and electrons. This takes place in the chloroplast of cells which are held in plant leaves. Within these chloroplasts, lie thylakoid membranes and these membranes are where photosynthesis takes place.In this proposal, we will test the feasibility of extracting photosynthetic thylakoid membranes, attaching them to optimized gold-coated electrodes and using the resulting solar cells as low cost solar energy harvesters. It is known that such solar cells are capable of generating very small photocurrents. Thus, the principal aim of this proposal is to increase these photocurrents (by optimizing electrode design and thylakoid production) so that the technology can become a viable commercial technology.


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P Holliman (2008) Advances in Wales

Description This was a feasibility project looking at linking biological material to synthetic electrodes. We found that we could connect the biological material to electrode surfaces and make electricity when exposing these devices to sunlight.
Exploitation Route Being able to link biological material to synthetic surfaces is important for uses other than the soar cell devices we were studying. The data we found should be interesting for people working on sensors and in medical applications.
Sectors Chemicals,Electronics,Energy,Environment,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology

Description We have used the new knowledge to help us control the processes happening at electrode surfaces. We also used the data in a follow on PhD project.
First Year Of Impact 2009
Sector Chemicals,Energy
Impact Types Economic

Description PhD funding for Dhiyaa Kareem Muslem
Amount £60,000 (GBP)
Organisation Iraqi Government 
Sector Public
Country Iraq
Start 09/2009 
End 09/2012
Description Radio Wales - Science Cafe 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact I gave an interview to the Radio Wales Science Cafe programme. This programme covers topical issues in science. My interview covered the biosolar project and the potential for large scale, low cost solar cell devices

I was subsequently asked to contribute an article on biosolar energy to Advances in Wales and was contacted by Times Higher Education who also wrote an article on this research.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2008