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Photosynthesis Inspires Research Into New Battery Tech

Scientists at Concordia University said they are looking into the viability of a battery that has been created by nature billions of years ago. A completely sustainable battery technology could not only be much more environmentally friendly, but also be used without concern for in-body electronics.

Photosynthetic energy conversion activity as at the heart of the research. Concordia associate professor László Kálmán said he has been working with a battery-like enzyme that is used in nature to capture solar energy. In nature, the energy is immediately converted, but Kálmán's team has found a way to extend the storage time from seconds to several hours.

In the photo-chemical reaction, light prompts a charge separation in the enzyme, causing one end to become negatively charged and the other positively charged, Kálmán explained. To prevent immediate energy conversion, the researchers added "different molecules" to change the shape of the enzyme and allow it to hold the charge for an extended period of time. “What we’re doing is similar to placing a racecar on snow-covered streets,” said Kálmán. "The surrounding conditions prevent the racecar from performing as it would on a racetrack, just like the different lipids prevent the enzyme from recombining the charges as efficiently as it does under normal circumstances."

Kálmán's vision is a battery without toxic materials that can take advantage of an abundant energy source - sunlight. He believes there can be "bio-compatible batteries" that can be placed inside a body without having to be concerned about potential damage being caused. “We’re far from that right now but these devices are currently being explored and developed,” he said. “We have to take things step by step but, hopefully, we’ll get there one day in the not-too-distant future.”