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Alternative energy – Biological photovoltaics

Rising atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, and concerns over energy security, mean that there is increasing interest in developing renewable energy technologies. Solar technologies are deemed to be particularly attractive, since over 100 000 TW of solar energy falls on the Earth every year. The human population currently use 10 TW of energy per annum, and by 2050, it is predicted that our energy demand will double to 20 TW per annum. It is therefore theoretically feasible that solar technologies could provide a significant proportion of our future energy requirement. However, harvesting a large proportion of this solar energy, in a cheap, efficient manner, poses many difficult technical challenges. At present, silicon based solar PV cells are the method of choice, but these devices tend to be very expensive to manufacture, since they contain highly purified, semi-conductive materials.

Therefore, in this application we developed a new energy producing technology – a photochemical reactions associated with a fundamental biological process – the photosynthesis, the S.E.T. Biological photovoltaics, to convert sunlight into a usable form of energy by means of a biological photovoltaic panel.

S.E.T. Biological photovoltaics is an energy-generating technology which uses oxygenic photoautotrophic organisms, or fractions thereof, to harvest light energy and produce electrical power. Biological photovoltaic devices are a type of biological electrochemical system, or microbial fuel cell, and are sometimes also called photo-microbial fuel cells or “living solar cells”. In a biological photovoltaic system, electrons generated by photolysis of water are transferred to an anode. A relatively high-potential reaction takes place at the cathode, and the resulting potential difference drives current through an external circuit to do useful work.

Unlike traditional photovoltaic technology, the S.E.T. Biological photovoltaics-technology takes advantages of the common photovoltaic technology in combination with biotechnology and multiplies the degree of utilization:

  • Sunshine Energy utilization up to 76%
  • Works even on days with less sunshine
  • Photo-Bio-Reactor for the treatment of waste gases can be combined with photovoltaics

S.E.T. Biological Photovoltaics is a biological electrochemical system, similar to microbial fuel cells. In the  S.E.T. Biological Photovoltaics system, photosynthetic material is employed in the anodic half-cell where it oxidises water using light energy. Some of the electrons generated by water photolysis are transferred to an electrode (anode). At the cathode, a reaction with a relatively high potential consumes electrons and creates a potential difference between the two electrodes, driving electrical current through an external circuit.

S.E.T. Biological Photovoltaics systems is employing whole algae as the light harvesting material, with the ability to self-repair and self-assemble,  which is generating constant electric power.