Pushing electrons: how does nature make it work in natural two dimensional solar cells?

Grantham Scholar Thomas Davies’ project looks at nano-patterning photosynthetic components from a range of different organisms onto substrates.

The project

Photosynthesis uses solar energy to convert carbon dioxide and water into chemical energy and oxygen. As a result we have food to eat and oxygen to breathe. But photosynthesis also provides much of the energy we use to power our homes and vehicles through ‘buried sunshine’ in the form of fossil fuels.

However, there is now an urgent need to stop burning fossil fuels. Otherwise we cannot reduce carbon emissions and prevent catastrophic climate change. As such, alternative energy sources are desperately needed. One of the most lucrative options is to directly harvest solar energy from the sun and convert it into an electrical current using photovoltaic devices.

The photosynthetic machinery that absorbs and traps solar energy in nature works at a greater efficiency than any artificial competitor. As a result, there is great interest in incorporating this biological material into bio-hybrid photovoltaic devices. Recent developments mean that we can now create hybrid networks with similar properties to native photosynthetic networks. And combining different biological components from a range of different organisms could further improve the efficiency of energy transfer and photocurrent generation.

This project will look at nano-patterning photosynthetic components from a range of different organisms onto substrates such as glass and silicon, and measuring the fluorescence energy and photocurrent generated by these devices. Insights gained from this work could therefore inspire the design of more efficient photovoltaic devices.

Thomas Davies’ publications

Thomas contributed to How Bad Are Bananas? The Carbon Footprint of Everything by Mike Berners-Lee.



Professor Mark Dickman

Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering