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Biotech Power

Solar Cells Made From Bioluminescent Jellyfish 82

Posted by samzenpus
from the cnidaria-power dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Swedish researchers have devised a way to turn bioluminescent jellyfish into solar cells. It works like this: the green fluorescent protein (GFP) that makes the Aequorea victoria glow is simply dripped onto a silicon dioxide substrate between two electrodes. The protein works itself into strands between the electrodes. When ultraviolet light is shined on the circuit, voila, the GFP absorbs photons and emits electrons, generating a current. The GFP-powered cells work like dye-sensitized solar cells, but don't require expensive materials such as titanium dioxide."
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Solar Cells Made From Bioluminescent Jellyfish

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  • by MichaelSmith (789609) on Wednesday September 08, 2010 @05:25PM (#33514680) Homepage Journal

    Jellyfish could be using Human Beings to generate power.

    • "Solars cells are made from jellyfish! They're jellyfish!" - Ty Thorn

    • by Sulphur (1548251)

      Jellyfish could be using Human Beings to generate power.

      Its the next Stimulus.

  • The Fools! (Score:3, Funny)

    by CompSci101 (706779) on Wednesday September 08, 2010 @05:30PM (#33514744)

    Haven't they played any of the Metroid games? We're all doomed!

    C

  • They also make a great fruit smoothy! Animals in a blender - for SCIENCE!

    Now where's my science blender - I feel another Daiquiri discovery coming on.
  • as it is a wethack.

    Being made from jellyfish just makes for even more bad jokes about wethacks.

  • output? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Taibhsear (1286214) on Wednesday September 08, 2010 @05:43PM (#33514868)

    What's the output on these new cells? The article mentioned the efficiency of algae cells but not these bioluminescent cells.

    • Re:output? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by StevenMaurer (115071) on Wednesday September 08, 2010 @06:17PM (#33515124) Homepage

      If you'd RTFA, you would have seen this snippet:

      The team has so far used a proof-of-concept device to power a clock. The sunlight-to-electricity efficiency of the device is only 0.1 per cent at present, compared with between 10 and 15 per cent for existing dye-sensitised solar cells, however. Screening different algae species to find the most productive electron donor might be one way to produce more juice.

      Eventually, algal cells could float out at sea, generating electricity from sunlight and seawater. "We might end up with less efficiency than [conventional] photovoltaics, but we think we can win on cost, and we don't require space where people want to live," says Bombelli.

      Of course, making electricity at sea [wikipedia.org] isn't so nearly hard to do as it is to get the electricity to a place where it can be used.

      • Algaelectricity

        Jellyfish are not the only sea creatures that can be exploited to generate energy: algae could power floating devices on the ocean wave. Adrian Fisher and Paolo Bombelli at the University of Cambridge and colleagues are developing biophotovoltaic devices based on algae and photosynthetic bacteria.

        The team deposit a film of photosynthetic cells on top of a transparent conductive electrode, which faces a carbon cathode seeded with platinum nanoparticles.

        When exposed to sunlight the algal cells begin splitting water and producing oxygen, electrons and protons. These would usually be used by the algae to convert carbon dioxide into organic compounds, but instead the device siphons them off to generate electricity, says Fisher. "The algal cells produce electrons very generously," he says.

        The team has so far used a proof-of-concept device to power a clock. The sunlight-to-electricity efficiency of the device is only 0.1 per cent at present, compared with between 10 and 15 per cent for existing dye-sensitised solar cells, however. Screening different algae species to find the most productive electron donor might be one way to produce more juice.

        Eventually, algal cells could float out at sea, generating electricity from sunlight and seawater. "We might end up with less efficiency than [conventional] photovoltaics, but we think we can win on cost, and we don't require space where people want to live," says Bombelli.

        I RTFA. That's what I meant. They only list the algal cells, not the jellyfish protein ones. The jellyfish are only referred to in order to link these two concepts together. The 0.1 percent efficiency is for the algal cells, not the jellyfish protein ones.

  • The sea is radioactive
  • by smellsofbikes (890263) on Wednesday September 08, 2010 @06:11PM (#33515084) Journal
    Titanium dioxide is dirt cheap, like $2 USD/kilogram cheap. Now, this might use some higher-purity version, but if they're using a "silicon dioxide substrate" they're already spending as much on reasonable SiO2 and its processing than the TiO2 is going to cost.

    I think it's cool research -- self-assembling stuff rocks -- but I'm dubious about their claim of the effectiveness of that particular cost reduction.

    • Yeah, they put this in toothpaste. That's probably why it costs upwards of $1.99 per frickin tube.

      • If memory serves me correctly, there was an article where a organic dye solar cell was Mac Gyvered from toothpaste and some berry juice a while ago.

    • by timeOday (582209)
      Yeah, I noticed that too... "titanium" is still sort of exotic, but titanium dioxide is the ingredient that makes today's paint cover so well, and is used in lots of other stuff [wikipedia.org] too.
      • Titanium's only exotic because it's so hard to get from the oxide to the elemental form. But it's the ninth most common element on the planet: you can hardly move without tripping over the stuff. Yeah, they use it in paint, toothpaste, all sorts of things. Miserable to machine, though, and a little tricky to weld. It's also interesting because as far as I know it's the only element that'll burn in pure nitrogen, as well as oxygen/atmospheric.
        • by timeOday (582209)

          as far as I know it's the only element that'll burn in pure nitrogen, as well as oxygen/atmospheric.

          Not magnesium [ls1tech.com]?

          Magnesium, as in pure magnesium, is highly flammable and easily ignited when it is in powdered form, and less when in shavings. It corresponds to how much surface area of the metal is exposed to an oxider which is generally the oxygen in air. Magnesium will also burn without oxygen, it can burn in pure nitrogen gas or in carbon dioxide.

          • I did not know that! Ya learn something new every day. Especially interesting insofar as I've been trying to weld magnesium of late, and there are shielding gas mixes that contain 25% carbon dioxide. I think I'll stick with straight argon.
    • by wvmarle (1070040)
      TiO2 is a common pigment, I know it for dying plastic resin mainly. It's very cheap, common, very white, and UV resistant. The ideal pigment. So tfs must be wrong in this aspect indeed.
    • by Xantheon (233911)

      On:
      http://www.icis.com/v2/chemicals/9076545/titanium-dioxide/pricing.html ...
      Titanium Dioxide (TiO2) Prices and Pricing Information ...
      Updated to mid-August 2010 ...
      Asian titanium dioxide (TiO2) prices increased by 1-4% from $2,535-2,600/tonne CFR (cost and freight) Asia in mid-May to $2,550-2,700/tonne CFR Asia in end-July on the back of tightening supplies in the region. ...

  • "such as titanium dioxide" but requires exotic Chinese cuisine ingredients????
  • Such a fuel cell could be used to power nano-devices embedded in living organisms, says Chiragwandi, for example to diagnose disease.

    is it just me or is this quote ridiculously buzzword-esque?

    or do they really think they have unlocked the key to nanotechnology and cured cancer?

  • by Goldsmith (561202) on Wednesday September 08, 2010 @06:19PM (#33515132)

    Why would you say this? Maybe you meant indium tin oxide, which is expensive... but no, you use that one, but don't mention that in the press release.

    It's not likely that someone working with this protein, who has to purchase or make it for several thousand dollars per milligram makes this claim innocently (titanium dioxide is a few cents per gram, and GFP is already one of the most mass produced purified proteins out there, it's not going to get much cheaper anytime soon). Misleading blurbs like this are terrible for science; they propagate falsehoods and direct research funding away from promising sources.

    • by John Hasler (414242) on Wednesday September 08, 2010 @06:27PM (#33515174) Homepage

      They are referring to expensive nanostructured titanium dioxide used in some solar cell technologies. The reporter, of course, is oblivious to the difference between that and the pigment in white housepaint.

      • Outta mod points - this should be marked Informative, I was also unaware of the difference between the two, and hence confused by why it would be considered expensive in solar cells.

      • by Goldsmith (561202)

        "Nanostructured?"

        Sorry, that's also BS. Spinning on a sol-gel solution is neither expensive nor "nanostructuring," and that can get you an excellent coating. You can also paint on an effective coating. If you've ever seen a self-cleaning window, and you have if you've used a car, you've seen a very cheap and effective photoactive TiO2 layer in action.

        The TiO2 in photochemical cells is never the expensive part. Platinum, ITO and the dye are all more expensive. These photoactive coatings are so cheap to

  • by Itninja (937614) on Wednesday September 08, 2010 @06:21PM (#33515138) Homepage
    I have not yet received my opinion assignment document from those we don't speak of, so I am not really sure what I am supposed to think about this. On one tentacle, anything helping to make photovoltaic material affordable is very good. But the other tentacle, harvesting (and likely destroying) scores of jellyfish to do so seems, well, creepy. I think I will need to wait until cable news tells me what to think.
    • I have not yet received my opinion assignment document from those we don't speak of,

      Oh, we can speak of them, just not by name.

      On one tentacle, anything helping to make photovoltaic material affordable is very good.

      He-who-lies-dead-but-dreaming cares little for the affordability of non-fossil-fuel energy sources.

      But the other tentacle, harvesting (and likely destroying) scores of jellyfish to do so seems, well, creepy.

      Au contraire, mon frere. Jellyfish are but poor representations of Old Ones, and should

  • There is no such thing as new solar cell technology!!!!

    Please feel free to refute this fact with an example product.
    • by dbIII (701233)
      It's all new kid! Now get off my lawn and stop your "I don't want to hear about it until I can buy it at Walmart" whining.
      It can take years before some really interesting discovery is incorporated into something you can buy at Walmart, or it may not end up there at all but instead have a specialised use.
  • Does this mean cheap solar cells for the whole world? I'm guessing not.
    Anyone know why not?
  • Hey, editor! This is in the wrong section.

    Jellyfish, strictly speaking, are software. (Unless you reinforce them with an exoskeleton.)

  • by florescent_beige (608235) on Wednesday September 08, 2010 @09:30PM (#33516394) Journal

    It's not easy being bioluminescent.

    Like it wasn't bad enough these poor creatures spend their entire existence as lowly bags of goo. Now they have to spend half their time fleeing from horrific vertebrates that want to squeeze the life-goo right out of them for no discernible reason. Well, not actually fleeing. Trying to flee. Have you ever seen a jellyfish flee? It's sad. Pathetic really. Very slow. You can't even call it fleeing. It's more like moseying. "The jellyfish are moseying for their lives!" See what I mean? Poor things.

  • > expensive materials such as titanium dioxide

    Ummm, you mean common white paint?

    Maury

  • Somewhere around half a percent of the Earth itself and 1 percent of soil is titanium, so it isn't exactly rare. There's a large market for titanium dioxide in industrial quantities and it currently costs about $1.50 per pound. [icis.com]

    I couldn't find any sources of GFP in industrial quantities (or any industrial uses of it), but looking at the production costs of other recombinant proteins is telling. In 1997, heparinase I production was estimated to cost around $250,000 per pound [mit.edu] with capital costs in the t
  • by fnj (64210) on Thursday September 09, 2010 @03:22AM (#33518148)

    What is the efficiency of these particular organic solar cells under ordinary solar radiation? What is their lifetime before the organic matter decays?

  • Man, I gotta get into the titanium dioxide production business if bioluminescent jelly fish are going to be cheaper.
    There's gotta be a heck of a profit in there.

  • I wonder if this could also be done with bioluminescent mushrooms such as the Panellus stipticus [wikipedia.org].
  • Yet another species to exploit to extinction! Yay!

    • You can just cultivate batches of jellyfish cells, you don't need whole, live jellyfish.

      In Florida, somebody on a lifeguard staff reached into a cooler and pulled out a coke bottle that looked like it was full of water but was full of water containing a batch of invisible jellyfish stinger cells. He drank it and survived with discomfort.

      Anyways you can just grow the shit, you don't need to kill more than probably one jellyfish to get it started, boo hoo if they all die, though. What are you using them for?

    • Are actually thriving, to the detriment of other species.

      They reproduce so fast, and easily, as well as survive a ton of different conditions.

  • At $2000 a ton, I'm left wondering how this incredibly ubiquitous material is considered expensive...perhaps someone can describe this to me. From my understanding, the TiO2 is applied using a caustic wash process, again very straightforward. I'm interested in knowing how this is difficult or expensive.

I am not now, nor have I ever been, a member of the demigodic party. -- Dennis Ritchie

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