You may consider yourself the greenest, most carbon-neutral person on your block, but get ready to take your ecological quest to a whole new level with recyclable solar cells made from trees.
Researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology and Purdue University have fabricated efficient plant-based solar cells on cellulose nanocrystal substrates. Better yet, they can be dissolved in water and recycled.
BLOG: Ocean Array Could Clean Up Tons Of Plastic
The organic solar cells have a power conversion efficiency of 2.7 percent, which researchers say is an unprecedented figure for cells created from renewable raw materials.
"Our next steps will be to work toward improving the power conversion efficiency over 10 percent, levels similar to solar cells fabricated on glass or petroleum-based substrates," Georgia Tech engineering professor Bernard Kippelen said in a university news release.
Organic solar cells are usually fabricated on glass or plastic, neither of which are easily recycled due to the manufacturing process. Petroleum-based substrates are even less eco-friendly. Substrates fabricated on paper are better for the environment, but because of high surface roughness or porosity, performance is limited. But cellulose nanomaterials have a low surface roughness and, because they're made from wood, they're green, renewable and sustainable.