Shuguang Zhang a US scientist who is based at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, used spinach chloroplasts to make a solar energy cell.
Chloroplasts are packed with chlorophyll – the substance that gives leaves their green colour and allows them to photosynthesise. The resulting cells are much thinner and lighter than existing solar panels and could eventually be used to make much more efficient panels, says Shuguang Zhang.
So far, the cells convert only 12% of light to electricity but Zhang says efficiency could be boosted dramatically by layering cells on top of one another.
Shuguang Zhang told New Scientist. “Nature has been doing this for billions of yearsÂ this is the first time we’ve been able to harness it.”
Previous efforts to integrate the energy harnessing capability of chlorophyll with conventional electronics have failed because it normally requires a watery environment in which to work.