Lichen has been discovered to convert sunbeams into usable energy, with a specific type called Melanelixia glabra having a pigment called melanin that helps it absorb sunlight. Scientists have used this to create a dye-sensitized solar cell (DSSC) and with DSSCs being cheaper to produce and much more efficient than traditional silicon solar cells have the potential to revolutionise the renewable energy industry. However, DSSCs are not as stable as traditional cells, affecting their lifespan and efficiency over time. The lichen-based DSSCs also have a potential application in the medical and cosmetic industries due to the properties of melanin.
The Lichen That Could Revolutionize the Renewable Energy Industry
The renewable energy industry is constantly searching for new technologies and solutions to help reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and lower our impact on the environment. One of the newest and most promising solutions for renewable energy is an unlikely source – lichen.
What is lichen?
Lichen is a symbiotic organism made up of fungus and algae. The fungus provides a protective structure for the algae, while the algae provide the fungus with nutrients through photosynthesis. Lichen is found in a variety of habitats, including forests, deserts, and the arctic tundra.
How can lichen revolutionize renewable energy?
Lichen has recently been discovered to have the unique ability to convert sunbeams into usable energy. The specific type of lichen responsible for this incredible feat is called Melanelixia glabra, and it has a pigment called melanin that helps it absorb sunlight.
Scientists have been able to isolate this pigment and use it to create a dye-sensitized solar cell (DSSC), which is a type of solar cell that mimics the process of photosynthesis. DSSCs are much cheaper to produce than traditional silicon solar cells and are much more efficient at harvesting light energy, making them a promising option for renewable energy production.
What are the benefits of using lichen-based DSSCs?
There are several benefits to using lichen-based DSSCs for renewable energy production:
- Lower cost: DSSCs are much cheaper to produce than traditional silicon solar cells.
- Higher efficiency: DSSCs are much more efficient at harvesting light energy, which means they require less surface area to produce the same amount of electricity as silicon solar cells.
- Environmentally friendly: DSSCs are made from natural materials and have a lower environmental impact than traditional silicon solar cells.
What are the challenges of using lichen-based DSSCs?
Despite the many benefits of lichen-based DSSCs, there are still some challenges that need to be overcome before they can be widely adopted for renewable energy production:
- Limited availability: Melanelixia glabra is only found in certain areas, which limits the availability of the pigment needed for DSSCs.
- Low stability: DSSCs are not as stable as traditional silicon solar cells, which can affect their lifespan and efficiency over time.
Lichen-based DSSCs have the potential to revolutionize the renewable energy industry by providing a low-cost, efficient, and environmentally friendly alternative to traditional silicon solar cells. While there are still some challenges that need to be overcome, the discovery of this unique property in lichen is a promising step towards a more sustainable future.
What is a dye-sensitized solar cell?
A dye-sensitized solar cell (DSSC) is a type of solar cell that uses a dye to absorb sunlight and convert it into usable energy. DSSCs are much cheaper to produce than traditional silicon solar cells and are much more efficient at harvesting light energy.
What is melanin?
Melanin is a pigment that gives color to the skin, hair, and eyes of humans and animals. In lichen, melanin helps it absorb sunlight and convert it into usable energy.
Do lichen-based DSSCs have any applications beyond renewable energy?
Yes, lichen-based DSSCs also have potential applications in the medical and cosmetic industries due to the properties of melanin. Melanin has been shown to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, which could be useful for treating certain medical conditions and promoting healthy skin.