A bio-solar breakthrough to produce cheap and efficient energy by
tapping the plant's photosynthetic process has been achieved,
Barry D. Bruce, professor of biochemistry at the University of
Tennessee, worked with researchers from MIT and Ecole
Polytechnique Federale, Switzerland to develop a process to
improve the efficiency of generating electric power using
molecular structures from plants.
To produce the energy, the scientists harnessed the power of a key
component of photosynthesis known as photosystem-I (PSI) from
This complex was then bioengineered to specifically interact with
a semi-conductor so that, when illuminated, the process of
photosynthesis produced electricity.
"This system is a preferred method of sustainable energy because
it is clean and it is potentially very efficient," said Bruce,
named one of "Ten Revolutionaries that May Change the World" by
Forbes magazine in 2007 for his early work, which first
demonstrated biosolar electricity generation.
"As opposed to conventional photovoltaic solar power systems, we
are using renewable biological materials rather than toxic
chemicals to generate energy," said Bruce, reported the journal
Nature: Scientific Reports, citing a Tennessee varsity statement.
"Likewise, our system will require less time, land, water and
input of fossil fuels to produce energy than most biofuels," he
Because of the engineered properties, the system self-assembles
and is much easier to re-create than Bruce's earlier work. In
fact, the approach is simple enough that it can be replicated in
most labs-allowing others around the world to work toward further
"Because the system is so cheap and simple, my hope is that this
system will develop with additional improvements to lead to a
green, sustainable energy source," said Bruce.