Italians Use Blueberries to Convert Light to Electricity
While I suppose it's unfortunate that they couldn't just use a cheap Chianti, some Italian researchers at the University of Tor Vergata have developed a new kind of solar panel that uses a pigment found in blueberries to convert light into electricity.
The technology is not well explained anywhere, at least not in English, but based on some previous applications with spinach (and some time with Google's translator), it's likely that a photosynthetic pigment is sandwiched between two plastic plates. The result is a flexible, partially transparent solar cell that contains absolutely no silicon. Avoiding silicon in solar panels is important, as it is both expensive and environmentally costly to produce. However, silicon panels achieve much higher efficiencies than current non-silicon technologies.The blueberry cells would be much cheaper than silicon solar cells, but they are also much less efficient. The blueberry pigment can also be mixed with an inorganic compound that ups the efficiency to 10%, which would bring the technology close to the current cost per watt of silicon solar cells. The first grove of blueberry solar panels will be implemented in a solar installation in Italy in 2008 on the Island of Ventotene.