Believe it or not, jellyfish power could be the next big thing in renewable energy. As Salon notes, solar power is not as renewable as you might think due to the materials need to make the panels, so scientists are experimenting with biosolar energy, which involves producing power using the photosynthetic processes of plants, including those consumed by jellyfish.
Salon notes that, while they produce carbon-neutral, renewable energy, the resources needed to make panels are both limited and in many instances toxic, including rare earth minerals and conductors like silver – all of which also involve an energy-intensive process to extract from the Earth. Moreover, the majority of commercial solar panels operate at only 15 to 20 percent efficiency, and only last for 8 to 10 years, resulting in technology that’s far from perfect.
So scientists like Barry Bruce at the University of Tennessee are pioneering the field of biosolar energy, using the quantum energy of photosynthesis to try and create a highly-efficient, affordable and sustainable source of energy.
Bruce, a professor of biochemistry, and cellular and molecular biology who operates his own Bruce Lab at the University of Tennessee, is looking for a way to extract this plant energy in a low-cost way so it can be used to make solar panels en masse. Doing that involves creating a thick paste of chlorophyll-laced material that can produce energy, and then be painted on to sheets of transparent mylar-like material that could be used to charge low-power devices like cell phones, LED lights and small fridges for storing vaccines.
The latter appliances are a key to Bruce’s mission of bringing clean power to the people who need it the most, but can’t afford it. “There are two billion people living without electricity right now,” Bruce told Salon. “If they had, say, the light to read at night, they could learn to treat their water, learn to use vaccines, practice birth control, and learn to implement better agricultural practices. We could help overcome the world’s illiteracy obstacle.”
The Golden Jellyfish could be a key candidate for harvesting photosynthetic material, thanks to the large amounts of photosynthetic algae-like organisms called zooxanthellae they consume, giving them their golden glow. However, thanks to climate change, they may soon be in short supply.