There are two ways to turn aqueous silicon into silicon crystals. First, build a multi-million dollar factory that consumes millions of gallons of water and several megawatts per day. Or, second, feed it to a sponge.
Researchers at UC Santa Barbara are imitating the techniques of marine sponges that naturally extract silicon from seawater to create their signature spiked bodies.
Currently the production of solar cells requires â€œhigh temperature and very low pressure, making it an expensive and energy-intensive process.â€ Nature trumps technology through the sea sponge use of an enzyme called silicatein to convert silicic acid found in seawater into silica spikes, all without high temperature or low pressure. While still at early stages, they have already imitated this process using zinc oxide to create solar cell semiconductors.
A low-cost alternative to current processes should forward the expansion of solar energy. Cheap EcoGeeks need their fix too!
Source: New Scientist
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