Scientists Harness The Power Of Plant Photosynthesis With Biophotovoltaics

Images: London Design Week

If you think powering your gadgets with plants sounds like a strange idea, think again. Scientists at Cambridge University are working with designers to develop the next generation of photovoltaics that harness the biological power of plant photosynthesis. To give a visual idea of how these biophotovoltaics (BPVs) may look like, doctoral candidate Paolo Bombelli collaborated with designers Alex Driver and Carlos Peralta to produce these intriguing concept designs, ranging from a moss-powered lamp to a colony of 'solar masts'.



Some of the other ideas introduced by the team include BPV panels intended for domestic use (pictured above), as well as an offshore power plant capable of generating 5-6 watts per square meter and which also resembles something like gigantic lily pads -- with each pad actually consisting of many algae-coated panels. According to the designers, this power station would even "generate energy during the night as a result of excess electrons being stored inside the algal cells during daylight hours."


They've also designed 'solar masts' that look like vertical towers covered with algae -- a fast-growing plant -- to collect and transform sun energy. Water can also be harvested from underground to feed the plants so that the system can be self-sufficient.


Biophotovoltaic masts filled with algae can also collect the requisite rainwater instead in this alternative design.


It may be five to ten years before we might see biophotovoltaics as a competitor to conventional solar panels. But in the meantime, these plant-powered ideas will be exhibited during London Design Week 2011 from September 22 to 25, 2011.

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