Two Binghamton University scientists designed a small biological solar cell that could be useful for lab-on-a-chip devices, which are typically a few square centimeters in size. Their solar cells generate a greater power density for a longer period of time than other similar cells, making them the most powerful ones created to date.

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Binghamton University PhD candidate Lin Liu and electrical and computer science assistant professor Seokheun Choi recently created powerful miniaturized biological solar cells (BSCs). Choi said in a statement, “Micro-BSCs can continuously generate electricity from microbial photosynthetic and respiratory activities over day-night cycles, offering a clean and renewable power source with self-sustaining potential. However, the promise of this technology has not been translated into practical applications because of its relatively low power and current short lifetimes.”

Related: This living solar wallpaper harvests energy thanks to photosynthesis

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The two scientists were able to develop a bio-solar cell that overcomes some of these difficulties. According to Binghamton University, “The bio-solar cell generated the highest power density for the longest time among any existing micro-scale bio-solar cells.”

The bio-solar cell could offer a sustainable, practical power source for lab-on-a-chip devices, which integrate several laboratory techniques into one system. Such devices could have several applications in the developing world, such as in quickly analyzing blood samples for HIV or diagnosing infectious diseases. According to a article updated in 2016, at that time there was research in progress for detecting microorganisms that cause malaria, dengue, or tuberculosis, to name a few, with the technology. It’s best for those tiny tools to be able to generate their own energy so they can operate in remote regions or ones with limited resources, so the Binghamton University micro-scale solar cells could offer a suitable option.

The journal Lab on a Chip published the research in October.

Via Binghamton University

Images via Seokheun Choi and Wikimedia Commons