Wednesday, September 8, 2010
File this one under "holy crap," but scientists at MIT have discovered molecules that spontaneously assemble themselves into a pattern that can turn light into electricity — essentially a self-creating solar panel. In a petri dish.
The researchers set out to create a synthetic process that imitates photosynthesis. Certain molecules respond to light by releasing electrons; the trick was discovering a substance that sticks them together in a consistent structure. Phospholipids do just that, and they also attach themselves to carbon nanotubes, which conduct electricity. With the nanotubes holding the phospholipids in a uniform alignment, the photoreactive molecules are all exposed to light at once, and the tube acts as a wire that then collects the resulting electrical current.
Pachal's story continues here.