Not uncommon for outstanding inventions be only a simplified repetition of what nature has already created millions of years ago. Favorites recent discoveries by scientists at Yale University have become common algae.

A team of Yale was interested in the tiny fossilized creatures — diatoms, a group of phytoplankton. Sometimes they are called “gems of the sea” because of the ability of their silica glass shells scatter light. Diatom algae in large quantities is found in oceans and freshwater reservoirs, which makes them an ideal material for improvement of solar cells.

Organic photovoltaic solar cells covered with an active layer made of organic polymers, with which they much cheaper synthetic photovoltaic cells, though inferior to them in efficiency. Their main disadvantage is that the active layer is extremely thin – only 300 nm. Increasing its thickness would reduce the conversion rate of sunlight, and the use of more efficient materials dramatically increases the cost of the item.

However, here came nature itself. Diatoms efficiently scatter light, so the scientists decided to use them as cheaper and more available material for covering the solar panels. Thanks to the introduction of algae in the active layer, the Yale team was able to reduce the amount of other necessary materials, while not lowering the efficiency of the item.

Source — Yale University