TechPV-Leaf: Harnessing the sun for power and water revolution

PV‑Leaf: Harnessing the sun for power and water revolution

Sample photovoltaic cell
Sample photovoltaic cell
Images source: © Pixabay

21 June 2024 16:12

Scientists have developed a modern photovoltaic device inspired by leaves. It generates electrical energy from sunlight and produces fresh water, mimicking the natural processes occurring in plants.

In 2023, a research team from Imperial College London unveiled an innovative photovoltaic device called PV-leaf (photovoltaic leaf). According to information published on the Interesting Engineering website, this novel invention converts sunlight into electrical energy, which is then used to produce fresh water. Scientists suggest this technology could form the foundation for future renewable energy systems.

Photovoltaic leaf. Will it be better than panels?

Research shows that PV-leaf can generate over 10 percent more electrical energy than traditional solar panels, which waste up to 70 percent of the sun's energy.

Scientists predict that their invention could significantly contribute to the extraction of fresh water from the atmosphere. If the device is implemented as expected, by 2050, it will produce up to 38 billion litres of fresh water annually.

– This innovative design holds tremendous potential for significantly enhancing the performance of solar panels, while also ensuring cost-effectiveness and practicality – said Dr Gan Huang, honorary research fellow at the Department of Chemical Engineering and the study's author.

How does the PV-leaf work?

The PV-leaf does not require pumps, fans, or costly porous materials, making it exceptionally practical. In addition to generating electrical energy and water, the device can also provide thermal energy. It can adapt to various sunlight conditions and withstand different ambient temperatures.

– Implementing this innovative leaf-like design could help expedite the global energy transition, while addressing two pressing global challenges: the need for increased energy and freshwater – said Professor Christos Markides, head of the Clean Energy Processes Laboratory and study's author.

The photovoltaic leaf mimics plants

The PV leaf operates on a similar principle to real leaves, imitating transpiration. Water is transported through the device and removed, cooling the photovoltaic cells and increasing their efficiency.

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