There may be a reason why Popeye bulks up every time he stuffs himself with spinach. Researchers at the Technion-Isreal Institute of Technology at Haifa had an amazing breakthrough discovery. Using a simple membrane extract from spinach leaves, they were able to develop a cell device that produces electrical currents, oxygen, and hydrogen from water with the use of sunlight.
According to Phys.org, the bio photoelectrochemical or BPEC cell soaks the sunlight up and convert it into electrons at an absolutely effective rate. The cell's development is based on photosynthesis, which naturally happens in plants when the light triggers electrons producing chemical molecules to fuel all cell in both the animal and plant world.
In order to use photosynthesis to produce an electric current, researchers have to add an iron-based compound to the solution. The compound deals with the transfer of electrons from the biological membranes to the electrical circuit, which then enables the creation of electrical currents. This can also be directed to form hydrogen gas through the addition of electric power from a small photovoltaic cell that takes in the excess sunlight.
Science Daily also reported that this process makes it possible for solar energy to be converted into chemical energy that can be stored as hydrogen gas formed in the BPEC cell. The said energy can be changed to heat and electricity by burning the hydrogen, when necessary. It can also happen the same way hydrocarbon fuels are utilized. However, the end product of hydrogen combustion is clean water as opposed to the combustion of hydrocarbon fuels that emit greenhouse gasses in the form of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and pollute the environment.
Researchers also said that this is a closed cycle that starts and ends with water, which allows the conversion and storage of solar energy in hydrogen gas that could be a clean and sustainable substitute for hydrocarbon fuel, reported Headlines and Global News.
"The study is unique in that it combines leading experts from three different faculties, namely three disciplines: biology, chemistry, and materials engineering," said Prof. Avner Rothschild from the Faculty of Material Science and Engineering, also a member of the research team. "The combination of natural (leaves) and artificial (photovoltaic cell and electronic components), and the need to make these components communicate with each other are complex engineering challenges that required us to join forces."
It is also important to know that this discovery can pave the way for the development of new technologies to create a clean and sustainable energy from natural sources such as water and solar energy, which let's face it the planet really needs.