The improvement of the efficiency of solar cells is one of the most challenging topics in technology nowadays. We know that solar energy can become one of the main resources for energy in the foreseeable future. However, we need to improve the efficiency of solar panels as it is, still, quite lower. It isn’t easy to take a major step in this research. Thus, small enhancements of 2% can be considered as great developments. Biomimicry can contribute to reach those improvements. A great study made with giant clams has shown amazing possibilities for solar cells and colour displays.
Giant clams for solar cells and colour displays
As we have mentioned, research into solar cells is a tough issue. We have talked about invisible wires, inflated solar concentrators or invisible cloaks in this blog. But today we want to talk about one special case inspired in nature. You may remember the Fovea Centralis improvement based on the eyes structure. Well, let’s include giant clams to this list, as they can also make their contribution to solar cells efficiency.
Although clams live in poor-nutrient water, they make use of the algae living inside the shell. Clams take carbohidrates from the photosynthesis of algae, and algae make use of the nitrogen-rich waste of clams. The study is focused on the analysis of the interface between clams and algae. More specially, in a collection of iridescent cells clams produce just inside the edge of their shells.
The secret of the study is how those iridescent cells interact with the algae to enhance photosynthesis. After all, as Amitabh Ghoshal, a postdoctoral fellow of the University of California says, photoshynthesis is similar to the process of solar cells:
“Like solar cells, photosynthesis involves converting light into energy. As we expand our understanding of the clam’s system for light collection, we can take the lessons from it to create solar cells that more efficiently convert light to energy.”
Furthermore, the study has been useful to find new methods for colour displays. Those iridescent cells create a dazzling array of colours including green, blue, gold and even white. Clams have been found to combine colours and create white in a similar way to colour displays.
You can find more information about this outstanding studied in an article published in Optica.