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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Solar Power Goes Viral: Researchers Use Virus to Improve Solar-Cell Efficiency

Researchers at MIT have found a way to make significant improvements to the power-conversion efficiency of solar cells by enlisting the services of tiny viruses to perform detailed assembly work at the microscopic level.

The new MIT research, published online in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, is based on findings that carbon nanotubes -- microscopic, hollow cylinders of pure carbon -- can enhance the efficiency of electron collection from a solar cell's surface.

Graduate students Xiangnan Dang and Hyunjung Yi -- working with Angela Belcher, the W. M. Keck Professor of Energy, and several other researchers -- found that a genetically engineered version of a virus called M13, which normally infects bacteria, can be used to control the arrangement of the nanotubes on a surface, keeping the tubes separate so they can't short out the circuits, and keeping the tubes apart so they don't clump.

Via Science Daily