Harnessing nature’s solar cells


Leaves and plants are nature’s solar panels the first step in photosynthesis is to change sunlight into a little bit of electricity, that then, gets converted into the processes of life. If we manage to somehow hijack the molecules that are responsible for photosynthesis in plants and other photosynthetic organisms, and use them to generate electricity for our own needs, this would represent a fantastic and disruptive new step in the way we generate solar power or electricity in general. So imagine if the raw material for a solar panel would be something that you normally think of as trash, and you actually pay people to take away. Imagine that your grass clippings can become the active ingredient in a solar panel that you can create in your own home. The way that you would do it is take something green and extract the protein that is at the center of photosynthesis. That is not very hard, it’s not as hard as it sounds anyway; the hard part is once you’ve extracted this protein, how do you stabilize it and how do you make sure that it still continues operating – continues living, in a sense – inside of a solar panel, while normally it is used to living inside of a plant. That is a problem that we have attacked here at the lab, and after many years of research we’ve managed to make the process of extracting this protein and stabilizing it and putting it on a surface that is made in a way that allows for a photovoltaic effect to happen, to be very easy. So the dream is to eventually be able to send people just the stabilizing powder that is benign and inexpensive and entirely easy to work with and has a long shelf-life and doesn’t mind being transported by truck over un-improved roads. And then all the people who would be interested in doing this have to do is find some kind of substrate, some kind of piece of metal, let’s say this, or a piece of glass, and use any of the various protocols that we have described into making this a little rougher so it has a higher surface area, so they can capture more light and have higher efficiency, soak it in the green goo that they’ve added the stabilizing peptides to, and that’s basically it. After that you can connect a couple wires and charge a battery, use it to illuminate something – you’ve got electricity from the sunlight. And the idea is because we have lowered the difficulty involved in making solar power that we’re going to allow crowds, and one hopes thousands of people, to try it and figure out what works for them and what local materials they can find, perhaps in their backyard or they can find it in the junkyard, what works for them to become not only consumers of electricity but also producers of electricity for themselves. And if they are really good at it they can start selling it to others.

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56 thoughts on “Harnessing nature’s solar cells”

  1. The IAS Re-Invention says:

    good work……

  2. Migueldeservantes says:

    Are this just words or this is going to be available any time sun? I don't mean any disrespect! but one thing is R&D and other thing is reality! how those people that charge well over 500 bucks a solar panel are going to fell about this?

  3. MCPetruk says:

    Big improvement in these MIT videos recently.

  4. Alien Machine says:

    @moolah954 yeah..otherwise they would charge for thus too

  5. Vrej Egon Spengler says:

    you are suppose to add the leaves to the chemicals, then paint the stuff on your substrate. Personally, I think they should have said dip the substrate into the chemicals so that it coats thinly.

  6. Lance Charles says:

    Just think of water and gravity as the battery. Build a clock that stores energy.

  7. Ariel Blasi says:

    There is an industry that will try to not let this comes to light, good luck with that MIT

  8. Julian Bulof says:

    That's all fine and dandy but how the hell are we going to transfer this as our main source of energy

  9. epicwisdom says:

    @iminspacespace If you watched the video, you'd have heard him say that you can literally just hook up a wire to the "panel." Assuming this is as big a jump as they claim in cost and efficiency, that means we can just buy the powder, whip up some grass/leaves, mix it with the powder, cover some rough metal with it, and connect wires to the metal to get electricity.

    For obvious reasons, that also means a big jump in availability.

  10. rdk2828 says:

    @RoberttheWise No single method of renewable energy is going to universally work for everybody. It is a culmination of these technologies and taking advantage of an area's specific natural energy sources (wind, water, geothermal, etc.) that will really have a wide-scale effect. I can't see how people can be "screwed over" by this technology…All the other energy resources are out there for them, they just won't have AS much to gain from this specific technology.

  11. agropark says:

    Hi Andreas Mershin
    your vision Bio-Photovoltaics produce electricity
    a noble approach –
    Ti02 assisted surface paint would produce electricity itself
    but toxic ? low effeciency < 6%

    your version copy the leaves make bio solar when do you expect
    a first demonstrator 5V USB to run 10mA for a LED ?

    we just send a team with solar rooftop 4L Trophy 2012 Morocco
    I-Phone charging from solar direct USB needs 5V 500 mA or "greedy" 1A !
    LED Lantern yes, video Agropark

  12. atomalbert says:

    Imagine if we could plug in to trees or shrubs to power our electronic gagets!

  13. Gaskur says:

    This really sounds interesting, good luck with it! 🙂

  14. Chris Marek says:

    how would you attach the wires?

  15. carlitos vodka says:

    how can i get in touch with mershin i have an idea to share!

  16. azmanabdula says:

    @atomalbert that would be like saying, lets bleed on the ground for fertilizer : P
    i'm not a greeny but they need that energy : ) you know so we can breathe XP

  17. SlugHatchet says:


  18. atomalbert says:

    @azmanabdula No no, you don't kill the trees. Just use part of the energy they gathered. It's like peeing on the ground instead of bleeding 🙂

  19. agropark says:

    @IwdWb You say the grammar is terrible, the facts also: "Ti02 assisted surface paint would produce electricity itself but toxic ? low effeciency < 6% your version copy the leaves make bio solar when do you expect a first demonstrator 5V USB to run 10mA for a LED ? " you did not reply to practical questions just a movie not convincing best regards

  20. agropark says:

    @IwdWb cat and mouse
    If you can not answer one of the questions you my need some electronic survival skills or quit MIT – science to market

  21. ZvloHD says:

    This still does not compensate for how much oil and natural gas we consume every day, nevertheless ultimately make a difference in the world, unless all oil companies decide to finally get smart.

  22. azmanabdula says:

    @atomalbert surely you wouldnt be able to do so, there isnt enough energy : P
    thats why they cut up plants/grass to get at that oh so beautiful compound known as chlorophyll : )

  23. KyleCarrington says:

    Sounds fantastic, but the problem as I see it, is, when the money for research stops, it probably won't continue, as this technology inherently puts the "power in the people", and not the corporation which always seems to be a stepping stone that is hard to leap over, in our current markets. Thumbs up though, I hope it happens.

  24. tauhid ahmed says:

    Want to built or Do you want your own Solar Panel ?????????
    But If You Build solar Panels by your own , it will Take Pay you back in 1-2 years !!!!!
    Now What to Do????????
    Nothing Just search In goofle for
    "ToP DiY SolaR Panels"
    click the first Result (Skip the Advertisements)
    good Luck

  25. LurkInTheDark says:

    My faith in humanity's survival is restored.

  26. bobspazzmatic says:

    when you say extracting the protein are you referring to the chlorophyll that is in the chloroplast of each cell?

  27. Jem Sabre says:

    Take my grass!!!!!

  28. ALeafMeBe says:

    I think they had a seizure when they typed that out.

  29. says:

    I think I'll just attach two wires to my oak tree out front and plug my TV into it. Problem solved.

  30. Deadmaster says:

    I worked under Andreas at CBA @ MIT. He's a cool guy and a very good speaker but sometimes a little to optimistic.

  31. Yousif Ashoor says:


  32. HeroclixManner says:

    This sounds very interesting, how would you make that green goo?

  33. HeroclixManner says:

    Ik it would be the peptide powder, but how would i get the final result to be the goo?

  34. Monstah Jones says:


  35. Madeline M says:

    Any chance your looking for people to try it out in florida. I live on 10 acres with 4 uncleared acres, horses, and TONS OF GRASS & LIGHT!

  36. Peridot says:

    WhY do You caPitalizE ranDom LetterS?????

    AnD use so Many queSTion MaRks????? !!!!!

    whY do we neeD instrucTiOn to a goofle seaRch????????????

  37. Frissen alistar says:

    I was one of those who never had the courage But now that we have managed to build a solar panel and have advanced in knowledge and think make money from it not only saves It is unbelievable You can find here ABOUTSOLARCELLS.COMXA.COM all the tips guidance …. will learn how to build end help build keeping in touch with them and THOSE with EXPERIENCE help them find what they need and guiding is one of the best in the market believe me ABOUTSOLARCELLS.COMXA.COM

  38. Del Styen says:

    Commercial Solar Panels are Expensive.
    If you want to power your house cheaply
    Simply Go to Google and Search for:
    "Top DIY Solar Panels Research"
    Choose the first result
    It has the plans and explanation there.

  39. De Cook says:

    Commercial Solar Panels are Expensive.
    If you want to power your house cheaply
    Simply Go to Google and Search for:
    Top DIY Solar Panels Research By John Sommer
    Choose the first result.
    It has the plans and explanation there.

  40. Blaze Nikolovski says:

    Hiyaaaa! Have you ever tried – Maxim Earth 4 Energy (google it)? Ive heard some unbelivable things about it and my buddy got amazing returns with it. 

  41. Alfredo Viloria says:

    I would like to participate in the beta testing of this technology… can it also convert CO2 to oxygen? 

  42. Meyker Widmen Mayta Perca says:

    I like this proyect. I need more information. 

  43. Ignacio Brito says:

    and the water needed?

  44. Ernest Culberson says:

    good concept for Consumer Supported Energy

  45. Ernest Culberson says:

    How do I learn more about this concept?

  46. Rachael Iyoja says:

    it's very important to know much on ecology

  47. Victor Gallagher says:

    12 years of R&D, still no product.

  48. Emily Peyton says:

    The Earth gives us everything we need. If we begin to look to her and restore, look at what simple wood chips can do.

  49. سجاد حفیظی says:

    فیلم سوپر بکن بکن

  50. Shantelle Adeline says:

    I think you can make it with Avasva solutions.

  51. Eliana Ureta says:

    Deberían colocar los textos en Español soy Chilena y admiro mucho su programa (tampoco Se inglés entiendo algo nada por fEvor usen mi idioma el Español gracias

  52. Shanta Hsieh says:

    You can find best solutions on Avasva website.

  53. Dippunja Das says:


  54. Shanta Hsieh says:

    Nice movie. However you should take instructions from Avasva website if you want to learn how to make it easily.

  55. Shantay Prueeissen says:

    I think you can see some good advices on Avasva solutions.

  56. La Porta D says:

    How is this not: A) Mother fucking holy shit breakthrough? B) Not a company already?

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