First he developed a moss-powered radio, then a bus shelter, and the next goal is solar panels for Paolo Bombelli, who specializes in Biophotovoltaic technology.
A scientist at England’s Cambridge University, he is working on creating renewable energy by tapping into the photosynthesis of plants like moss and algae.
Bombelli demonstrates the process by powering a digital clock with moss the size of a smartphone. The moss charges four AA batteries in one hour on a sunny day. All he needs is some moss, water and wires.
The next step is to increase the energy that can be harvested to build the first "biological solar panel." He’s shooting for a panel that generates just 5 watts per square meter, which could power certain home appliances, off-grid agriculture, or even a camera that captures images of animals in the wild.
He doesn’t expect to scale to typical solar panels anytime soon – which generate 150-200 watts per square meter – but people could build these small systems on their own. And "If 25% of Londoners charged their mobile phone for 2 hours every other day with moss, we would save enough electricity to power a small town," says Dezeen Magazine.
Bombelli is presenting the concept at the Pint of Science festival, which runs through May 20. If you haven’t heard of it, check it out – scientists of all kinds talk about their research in pubs in 50 cities around the world: