Postdoctoral Researcher Paolo Bombelli at the Department of Biochemistry, University of Cambridge, in the U.K., has been exploring the potential of hybrid systems where photobiological elements are used in electrochemical set-ups being called Photo Microbial Fuel Cells (Photo-MFCs) to generate electric current and function as biological solar panels.
Initially the energy conversion efficiency was very low, but he has obtained significant improvements with better designs and continues researching ways to further increase the electrical power output from plant-based power generators.
His studies stimulated interest and a collaboration with Cape Town University in South Africa where the accumulation of sugars and organic acids in plant soil and the effect of these compounds on the growth of microbial rhizospheric communities are analyzed.
His work also has stimulated the design of a variety of diverse application demonstrations such as biological plant powered bus shelters in London and M@Z (Moss at the Zoo), which consists of twelve moss power units powering a wild animal camera trap.
As another example, creative strategist and designer Fabienne Felder created the world’s first biological plant powered radio, called Moss FM, that is shown in this video.
So, does a conventional solar panel array converting sunlight into electrical energy during daytime, supplemented by a bank of biological plant power generators that continue working during nighttime make sense to you?