Asked by: LAURENCE SCOTT, BY EMAIL
Absolutely – and its promise was recognised by this year’s award of the £660,000 Millennium Prize, the world’s most prestigious technology award, to Professor Michael Grätzel, the Swiss pioneer of artificial photosynthesis. Since the 1970s, Grätzel has been developing the Dye-Sensitised Solar Cell (DSSC), a device that mimics the ability of plants to capture photons of light and turn them into electricity. DSSCs use special dyes to capture the energy in light at different wavelengths, like the chlorophyll of plants. Although still under development, the excitement surrounding DSSCs lies in the fact that while they only convert around 11 per cent of the light energy into electricity – well below the efficiency of conventional solar cells – they are much easier and cheaper to construct, and are expected to be much more cost-effective.