Researchers at the University of Georgia have developed a way to interrupt the process of photosynthesis and capture the electrons the plant produces before it turns them into sugar by separating out the thylakoid structures within the plant cell.
The proteins within the thylakoids are then modified and then immobilized on the backing of a carbon nanotube, which acts as an electric conductor; capturing the electrons and sending them along the wire.
Although the process is still in its infancy, the technology might be suited for remote sensors and other portable electronic devices that require less power to run in the near future.
With plants operating at almost 100% quantum efficiency, the process could greatly benefit the advancement of solar panel technology which only operates at levels between 12 and 17 percent.
The study, which was published in the Journal of Energy and Environmental Science, was written by Ramaraja Ramasamy, assistant professor in the UGA College of Engineering, graduated student Jessica Calkins, and postdoctoral research associate, Yogeswaran Umasankar.