How Mollusks Can Help Us Design More Efficient Solar Panels

How Mollusks Can Help Us Design More Efficient Solar Panels

Giant clams are the largest mollusks. bivalvesbivalves Which scientists know. It is endangered. But that's not why researchers at Yale University (USA) are interested in it. But in the hope of learning more about how this amazing clam converts sunlight into useful energy. Ultimately more efficient than any existing solar panel technology.

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The team has already carried out a series of works aimed at shedding light on biological mechanisms that could inspire new, more sustainable materials. In the journal BRX: EnergyThis time, researchers report how they studied the impressive potential of harnessing solar energy from giant, iridescent clams in the shallow waters of Palau, in the western Pacific Ocean.

The secret of giant clams in exploiting sunlight

Remember that giant clams are what researchers call photosynthesizers. Understand that to ensure that they produce energy from sunlight, they live in symbiosis with another organism. In this case, single-celled algae collect in vertical cylinders that grow on the surface of the clam. These AlgaeAlgae Sunlight is absorbed after being scattered by a layer of cells called iridocytes. The vertical, vertical arrangement of these algae appears to allow them to absorb sunlight at the most efficient rate. Once filtered and scattered by the iridocyte layer, the light is uniformly focused around each cylinder of algae.

Based on the geometry of giant clams, the researchers developed a model to calculate the efficiency with which each photon is converted into a photon. ElectronElectron. A model that also takes into account light fluctuations throughout the day. Tropical regionsTropical regionsResult: 42%. Not bad when we know that the effectiveness in it ThemeTheme Of the green leaves only about 14%.

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Improving the efficiency of solar panels

What’s even more interesting is that when they incorporated a specific feature of giant clams into their model, the number jumped to… 67%! The peculiarity in question: the way the clams stretch in response to changes in sunlight, making their algae columns rather short and wide. The researchers note that this phenomenon has also been observed northern forestsnorthern forests Spruce tree. With its fluctuating layers. fogfog Based on cloudscloudsThey share geometric shapes and mechanisms. SpreadSpread A light similar to that of the giant clam, but on a much larger scale. It turns out that their effectiveness is almost identical.

How could these findings be applied to renewable electricity production? By envisioning a new generation of solar panels that include algae or are made from materials that change shape in response to sunlight. Because the efficiency of our photovoltaic panels today barely exceeds 20%!


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Among the largest MolluscsMolluscs In the world, tridacnes (clams are their common name) are able to reflect sunlight deep into their tissues for the benefit of the photosynthetic algae that they house and which feed them. The secret of these bivalves: iridescent cells and a specific spatial organization.

Article fromAndrea HoggAndrea HoggPosted on 10/11/2014

The electric blue color of the oyster meat attracts the eyes of divers, but above all the sunlight. In fact, coatcoat These bivalve mollusks contain living, iridescent cells called “iridophytes.” These reflect sunlight inside the animal to symbiotic algae, according to a study published in the journal Royal Society Face Magazine.

Millions of algae thus harness the solar energy necessary for photosynthesis to produce organic matter. They then release it to their host. NutrientsNutrients Which the animal feeds on. In short, these bivalve mollusks are equipped with their own solar energy system where iridescent cells act as visual stimuli.

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To test this hypothesis, Amanda Holt and her team, from the University of California, Santa Barbara, in the United States, measured using a probe in Optical fiberOptical fiber amount of sunlight in three ClassClass (You want us to study?, Max T. And T. Krosya)) During a trip to Palau, a country located in Oceania east of the Philippines.

The bivalve model can be used to improve technological processes.

The result: the photon flux is five times higher than in bivalve molluscs without iridescent cells. In addition, the mantle cells reflect sunlight gently and evenly into the animal's deep tissues, protecting the algae from potential burns.

Finally, the latter are formed in an amazing way by stacking them on top of each other to form columns. Thanks to the lateral reflection of light, they are all supplied with photons. There colorcolor The mantle is explained as follows: it reflects waves that are not useful for photosynthesis (green and yellow) and spreads useful waves (red and blue) into the deep tissues.

According to the study authors, this highly efficient 3D biosystem could inspire the design of more photovoltaic materials. solidsolid And effective. It can also be used in algae production processes for manufacturing BiofuelsBiofuelsOr food or chemicals.

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About the Author: Octávio Florencio

"Evangelista zumbi. Pensador. Criador ávido. Fanático pela internet premiado. Fanático incurável pela web."

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