Scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory along with researchers from Washington University in St. Louis have been studying green photosynthetic bacteria in hopes of using the data to progress the efficiency of solar cell devices.
Using small-angle neutron scattering to analyze the structure of certain bacteria, scientists were able to clearly observe the complicated biological structure of chlorosomes, which they found are extremely efficient in converting sunlight into energy even at low-light and extreme conditions.
Chlorosomes are found in green sulfur bacteria, which grow in dark areas, and act as photosynthetic systems for the organism. Scientists put the bacteria under a range of different thermal and ionic conditions and found that their structure hardly changed.
The stability of chlorosomes could help researches reproduce similar structures that would improve electron transfer in semiconductors, thereby improving the efficiency of potential biohybrid solar cells. While future applications for the new data are purely speculation at this point, the environmentally inspired ideas seem to be a good fit for solar concentrating projects.