Scientists create most powerful micro-scale biological solar cell yet

Researchers created a micro-scale biological solar cell that generates a higher power density for longer than any existing cell of its kind.


Researchers at Binghamton University, State University of New York have created a micro-scale biological solar cell that generates a higher power density for longer than any existing cell of its kind.

A microfluidic lab-on-a-chip system that generates its own power is essential for stand-alone, independent, self-sustainable point-of-care diagnostic devices to work in limited-resource and remote regions, said Binghamton University Electrical and Computer Science Assistant Professor Seokheun Choi.

Miniaturized biological solar cells (or micro-BSCs) can be the most suitable power source for those applications because the technique resembles Earth’s natural ecosystem.

“Micro-BSCs can continuously generate electricity from microbial photosynthetic and respiratory activities over day-night cycles, offering a clean and renewable power source with self-sustaining potential,” said Choi. “However, the promise of this technology has not been translated into practical applications because of its relatively low power and current short lifetimes.”

miniaturized-biological-solar-cell
This is a miniaturized biological solar cell assembled micro-BSC device.
Credit: Seokheun Choi

Choi and PhD candidate Lin Liu created a microscale microfluidic biological solar cell that can attain high electrical power and long-term operational capability, which will provide a practical and sustainable power supply for lab-on-a-chip applications. The bio-solar cell generated the highest power density for the longest time among any existing micro-scale bio-solar cells.

“The device will release biological photo-energy conversion technology from its restriction to conceptual research and advance its translational potential toward practical and sustainable power applications for point-of-care diagnostics to work independently and self-sustainably in limited-resource and remote regions,” added Choi.

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