Friday, June 17, 2011

Solar Too Expensive? Use Jellyfish

Solar Too Expensive? Use Jellyfish: "
clip_image002Over 70 percent of the earth is covered by oceans. Humans, while avid land explorers throughout history, still have a rudimentary understanding of the ecosystem beneath the sea. Most people think “SpongeBob Squarepants” isn’t so far off from the truth, although how anyone could believe a pineapple made it to the bottom of the ocean without being scavenged is beyond me. But as we continue to explore the sea, we also continue to unlock some of its secrets. Scientists have done just that with mysterious bioluminescent jellyfish, which may end up powering your home in the near future.
The bioluminescent protein that allows the cnidarians to glow can actually be harnessed to produce an electrical current. Swedish researchers (Scandinavians are just the best) have devised a way to collect that protein and turn them into “organic solar cells.” By dripping the green fluorescent protein onto a silicon dioxide substrate between two electrodes, the Swedes saw that the protein works itself into tiny strands. Those strands, when exposed to ultraviolet light (like the sun produces), absorb photons and emit electrons, generating electricity. They work just like solar cells, but don’t require the expensive materials.
Even Gene Roddenberry couldn’t have thought that one up.
While using animals as an energy source is contentious, the current overpopulation of jellyfish in the oceans can lend itself to a mutual agreement between science and conservation. By collecting and using jellyfish to create carbon-neutral energy, balance may also be restored to the oceans, allowing more fragile species of life to exist. Like the glorious yellow sea sponge.
-- Erik Ian Larsen
Image: National Renewable Energy Laboratory

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