16 Jun '11, 3pm

How we’ll get ultra-efficient solar cells by copying plants’ ‘quantum biology’

How we’ll get ultra-efficient solar cells by copying plants’ ‘quantum biology’

Some day solar cells will be as cheap as house paint, and the renewables vs. fossil fuel debate will seem as quaint as Whigs vs. Jacksonian Democrats. Getting there has inspired all kinds of crazy ideas, and the craziest, perhaps, is to do it exactly like plants do. Thing is, your average plant turns out to be exploiting tricks of physics that most scientists used to think were only possible inside a lab, under high vacuum, at the intersection of a bunch of laser beams cooling a handful of atoms to near absolute zero. A new discipline called "quantum biology" holds that plants are exploiting a trick of quantum mechanics to convert sunlight into plant niblets at unexpectedly high efficiencies. The details are complicated, but it appears that electrons produced by a plant cell's chloroplasts attain a state of quantum "coherence," where the electrons’ wave patterns are moving...

Full article: http://www.grist.org/list/2011-06-16-how-well-get-ultra-e...

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grist.org 23 Jun '11, 5pm

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