Scientists are increasingly focused on finding renewable sources of power, and a researcher at MIT is working on putting together one such source that's primarily fueled by the sun and old yard waste. Andreas Mershin, a physicist and research affiliate at the MIT Center for Bits and Atoms, has just published a study in which he outlines the possibility of extracting the molecules responsible for photosynthesis from essentially worthless plants (like grass clippings) and using that to create an organic solar panel. Mershin claims that the extraction of the protein at the center of photosynthesis is a relatively simple task, but the challenge is getting that protein to continue providing energy outside of a plant.
That's the problem that Mershin's team has been working on for a number of years, but he feels that they've created a process that allows for extraction, stabilization, and placement of the protein on a surface that still allows for a photosynthetic effect to take place. All people would need to buy is an inexpensive "stabilizing powder" that can be combined with the aforementioned plant waste to create a substance that can collect sunlight and convert it to solar power. Mershin hopes that this technology can be implemented in developing nations to provide a cheap source of electricity that almost anyone will have access to; he also wants it to be so simple that the directions would only consist of "one sheet of cartoon instructions, with no words." That's stil a ways off — even though the system is 10,000 times more efficient than previous versions, it only converts 0.1 percent of the sun's energy into electricity. With a little more time, though, increased efficiency to one percent would be good enough to be useful.