Tree

Who doesn’t love trees? They provide shade in the summer, beautiful, bright scenery in the fall and are fun to climb year-round (yes, even adults can have fun climbing trees). And now trees have gained another wonderful, positive point. Engadget.com recently reported that trees are now responsible for a new, clean fuel.

The Engadget.com article reported that researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology and Purdue University made a patent-pending method to create organic solar cells using plant-derived substrates: “Known as cellulose nanocrystal substrates (or CNC), these solar cells benefit from being truly disposable, eliminating the waste that results from the use of alternative materials like petroleum or glass. The CNC-made cells are not only transparent enough to allow light to pass into an embedded semiconductor, but they also dissolve when submerged into water, thus earning the esteemed recyclable distinction.”

Forbes recently commented on the development and explained the new solar cell concept quite well: “Think of a solar cell like the leaf on a tree. They capture sunlight and can turn it into energy. And now, those solar cells have the possibility to do the same and be recyclable at the same time. Which means this technology takes us several steps farther along the path of creating sustainable, scalable and environmentally friendly energy production.”

Like all nifty scientific breakthroughs, the reported clean energy won’t be available in the near future. The new, clean fuel is not nearly as powerful as traditional energy quite yet: “Current cells can only yield a 2.7-percent conversion efficiency rate, which falls far below the 10-percent threshold met by rival fabrication methods (i.e., petroleum and glass).”

Read more about the development at Nature.com’s Scientific Reports.

Image: Jan Tik