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Home > News > What's green and makes electricity? An artificial leaf

May 19th, 2008

What's green and makes electricity? An artificial leaf

Photosynthesis is nearly the sole source of energy for the creatures inhabiting our planet, include the two-legged variety. For billions of years, since the appearance of the first vegetable cell, plants and bacteria have converted sunlight into energy-rich compounds. That is how all petroleum and coal reserves were created. Unfortunately, about 200 years of post-Industrial Revolution activity has wiped out most of these, and today's vegetation cannot take up the slack.

Photovoltaic cells made of silicon can convert solar energy to electricity, but due to their extremely high price, it costs four times more to generate power this way than with coal or petroleum. Now, researchers from Tel Aviv University (TAU) claim to have created a prototype of a photovoltaic cell by genetically engineering proteins that produce energy using photosynthesis. If successful, this would enable energy production on a commercial scale through the construction of "artificial leaves." The cells would even appear green, because of the wavelength of the light that they collect.

The new technology, developed by a team headed by TAU biochemist Prof. Chanoch Carmeli, will be presented tomorrow at an international conference, Renewable Energy and Beyond, that opens today at the university's Ramat Aviv campus. Former U.S. vice president Al Gore is to attend the conference.


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