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Blueberry pigments may replace silicon in solar panels

Thursday, December 21, 2006 by: Jerome Douglas
Tags: blueberries, solar power, green energy

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(NewsTarget) Blueberries are some of the most healthy foods on the planet, according to many naturalists and holistic health practitioners. The berry itself has flavors that range from mildly sweet to tart and tangy, and in addition, blueberries can help with a range of health problems. And now, blueberries may be able to help with our energy problems, too.

Researchers at Tufts University analyzed 60 fruits and vegetables for their antioxidant capability -- and blueberries came out on top, rating highest in their capacity to destroy free radicals. All of the benefits of the blueberry are now being added to with a neat and modern technological twist, as scientists from the University of Tor Vergata in Rome announced that they developed a new type of solar panel made with the pigment of blueberries.

The research team concluded that they could make a solar panel that was completely devoid of all silicon, and the end result was a solar panel that is much cheaper and more efficient, because the panels are more flexible. In fact, future solar panels based on the blueberry pigment could even be made into transparent sheets.

The research team's technology is based on the idea that organic semiconductors could significantly reduce the cost of producing solar panels -- a main drawback of this alternative energy source. Solar panels that are currently in use have an efficiency rate of 15 percent -- which means that the electric energy produced is 15 percent of the solar energy captured.

Newer solar panels using only organic materials -- such as the pigments of blueberries -- are achieving an efficiency of 4 percent in the lab setting, but the hybrid panels created with a mixture of organic and inorganic material are already presenting efficiency rates of 10 percent or more, which is close to what current commercial panels offer.

The blueberry-enhanced solar panel technology may start competing with traditional solar panel technology soon if it continues to show the promise it has recently.


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