photovoltaics paper 2

photovoltaics paper 2 - Capel et al 1 Emmeline Capel...

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Capel et al., 1 Emmeline Capel, Brittany Rolls, Mina Park, and Kristina Madore Dr. Susan Swensen Biology Lab, Monday 14 April 2008 Photovoltaics: Sustainable Means of Energizing the World The term “alternative energy” typically refers to non-traditional sources of energy that have a low environmental impact. The term is used interchangeably with “renewable energy” to indicate an energy source that is not a fossil fuel. Some examples of alternative energy sources include nuclear energy, solar energy (Photovoltaics), wind power, biomass, hydroelectric power (hydrogen fuel cell), tidal power, geothermal energy, and ethanol. A number of factors have fueled interest in developing alternative energy sources, including the rising costs of oil and natural gas, the desire to reduce America’s dependency on foreign oil, gas shortages due to the increasing energy needs of the developing world; not to mention the environmental effects of burning fossil fuels. In spite of the many advantages to alternative energy, there are also drawbacks to integrating these utilities in respect to cost, time, and universal-scale efficiencies of the different innovations (Solar, 2006). A promising enterprise is that of photovoltaic cells: these are solar cells which work to convert electrons to usable electricity streams through the use of various substrates and mechanisms. One means of powering a photovoltaic cell is through the use of organic, photosynthetic mechanisms; solar cells which can, in fact, mimic photosynthetic organisms. Look to nature’s own solar-cell we must—the plant. Photosynthesis, a mechanism which has prevailed through some 3.5 billion years of evolution is the model of function most apt to render a feasible, efficient, and viable photovoltaics cell. Within this study we plan to explore the
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Capel et al., 2 following: the different means of running a photosynthetic photovoltaic cell, efficiencies of the cells as compared to the conversion efficiencies of other solar cells, sustainability and impact of these photovoltaic systems in relation to real-world integration, and present-day integrations that have been implemented already worldwide. Photosynthetic Photovoltaic Systems: The process of converting sunlight into a manageable form of energy is one which developed during the midst of the Achaean eon and the earliest forms of oxygenic photosynthesis arose 2.7 billion years ago (Campbell & Reece, 2005). This form of photosynthesis is the predominant form in all photosynthetic organisms and is that which has been utilized in photovoltaic systems. The mechanisms of oxygenic photosynthesis in plants have rendered the organism’s morphological composition highly specialized for the capture and driving of sunlight. The leaf is the photosynthetic structure of the plant which captures light and drives the process of converting it and other substrates into viable energy (Campbell & Reece, 2005). The following diagram illustrates this anatomy (Davidson, 2008):
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Capel et al., 3
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