Scientists at Imperial College London have printed electronic circuits using cyanobacteria, microbes that can turn light into energy. Using a simple inkjet printer, they printed a carbon nanotube electrode surface and also the bio-ink of cyanobacteria on top.
Unlike conventional solar cells that operate only when exposed to light, cyanobacteria can generate an electric current in both dark and light. "Our bio-photovoltaic device is biodegradable and in the future could serve as a disposable solar panel and a battery that can decompose in our compost or gardens," explains Marin Sawa, author of the article recently published in Nature Communications.
"Economical, accessible, environmentally friendly and biodegradable batteries without heavy metals and plastics: this is what we and our environment really need, but we have not yet done so, and our work has shown that it is possible to have that, "said Dr. Sawa.
Bio-photovoltaic cells contain cyanobacteria or algae that convert light into energy. Currently, one of the biggest challenges facing bio-photovoltaic cells is to produce them on a large scale.
The researchers showed that nine connected cells can power a digital clock or generate flashes of light from an LED. The researchers also showed that cells can generate a continuous output power over a period of 100 hours consisting of light and dark cycles.