Development of Bio-Photovoltaic Devices

Researchers at the Algal Biotechnology Consortium (Cambridge University) are trying to tap photosynthesis using "a variety of biological material such as extracted photosynthetic material (thylakoid membranes), cyanobacteria and algae" to generate electricity or drive a chemical process.  From the animation, sunlight causes the photosynthetic material to split water into hydrogen and oxygen on the anode side of the cell.  The hydrogen passes through a barrier and is recombined with oxygen on the cathode side, releasing energy.

The process is an example of bio-utilization.  I found a recent paper but have not been able to retrieve it online.

Harnessing solar energy by bio-photovoltaic (BPV) devices

Paolo Bombelli, Alistair McCormick, Robert Bradley, Kamran Yunus, James Philips, Xander Anderson, Sonia Cruz, Rebecca Thorne, Ning Gu, Alison Smith, Derek Bendall, Chris Howe, Laurie Peter, Adrian Fisher
Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology, University of Cambridge, New Museums Site, Pembroke Street, CB2 3RA.
Communications in agricultural and applied biological sciences 01/2011; 76(2):89-91.

Treehugger summarized the post Biophotovoltaics: Design in Science at Designersblock London 2011 about "Designers ... collaborating with scientists at Cambridge University on cutting edge research aimed at developing Biophotovoltaic technology."  Designs mentioned included biophotovoltaic tables, algae solar panels, floating generators that harvest desalinated water, a floating algae power station and algae-coated masts.

The design initiative appears to be part of a "separate research project called Design in Science, also funded by the EPSRC and led by Dr James Moultrie, ... being conducted at Cambridge University’s Institute for Manufacturing.  Its aim is to explore how designers can play a role in early stage scientific research."  Given the early stage of the research, it is hard to evaluate whether any of these designs are viable.  One of the disadvantages of relying on biological components outside of their normal system is the effort required to keep them alive.

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