Two generally employed technologies for production of electricity are photovoltaics and fuel cells. Photovoltaics convert light energy, such as sunlight, into electrical energy. Fuel cells carry out chemical reactions and use the resulting energy to generate electrical current. In more conventional battery technology, heavy metals or other toxic or highly corrosive chemicals are used in the electrodes and electrolytes, which pose a serious environmental hazard. Scientists at Arizona State University have developed a novel combination of the photovoltaic and the fuel cell concepts. Moreover, no heavy metals or hazardous chemicals are used. The invention comprises an electrochemical cell that can be employed in the generation of electrical current via both oxidation of an organic or biological material along with photovoltaic action initiated by light. The invention produces electricity using a combination of solar energy and the oxidation of renewable carbon compounds, and does not use or produce highly toxic or non-biodegradable substances. When properly configured, the resulting device can be used to provide electrical power to essentially any application that depends on battery or fuel cell technologies.
|Published - Jan 29 2002