LONDON: A trio of scientists and engineers at the University of British Columbia are charging forward on a project they believe could turn the tide in the crusade against climate change.
The team wants to use the power of photosynthesis to create a biological solar panel and battery.
The focus of their efforts: bacterial proteins that specialize in converting light into cellular energy.
“They’re incredibly efficient,” said microbiologist Tom Beatty, the project’s initiator.
“They’re more efficient than man-made substances.
“What we want to do is trick the protein to move the electrons out … and onto an electrode connected to an electrical circuit.”
That electricity could in turn be stored then used for anything from charging your phone to turning on a light.
The beauty behind the project, said Beatty, is that the energy can be stored naturally.
Also collaborating on the project are bio-engineer and organic electronics expert John Madden, as well as chemist and solar-cell specialist Curtis Berlinguette, both at UBC.
“We bring different skills to this work and each one of us has a different focus,” said Beatty.
Besides using promising bacteria already present in various extreme conditions across nature, the researchers are also engineering normal bacteria to achieve their ends.
The ultimate goal: develop the ability to both keep that chemical excitement stored and also release it on cue as electricity.
Within 18 months Beatty said the team hopes to simulate the process in the lab.
“We’re not there today,” said Beatty. “We have a lot of work to do.”