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Ayomi Perera>> Actually Kansas is getting a reputation as one of the central places
of alternate research. Right now, what we are looking at is to make a solar cell more
green. These dye-sensitized cells have been around for more than 20 years. The highest
efficiency they?ve got is close to 11 percent so we thought rather than trying to increase
the efficiency, let?s look at a different area; let?s try to make it more green.
My research is based on a protein which we extract from a bacteria. The bacteria is called
a mycobacterium and a lot of people know the name mycobacterium because they cause a disease
called Tuberculosis. We are working with a species of this bacteria which is completely
harmless, although it?s related to the disease-causing one.
The bacteria produces a protein, which is found in the cell wall. This is how the protein
looks like once we extract it from the cell. The protein is essentially a channel, which
allows passage of molecules like water and other polar compounds in and out of the cell.
So we have isolated this protein and purified it to a high-pure protein and it has so many
applications due to its interesting surface chemistry.
One of the applications that we are looking at this time is the production of a solar
cell incorporating a protein component. So this cell is also a dye-sensitized solar cell
that means we have a dye to absorb sunlight. What we want the protein to do is capture
the electron that the dye gives out and then transfer it in one direction thereby generating
This type of research has not been done before, where you have a biodegradable or environmentally-friendly
component inside a solar cell. We?ve also synthesized a new dye which is less toxic
than dyes normally used in dye-sensitized cells and in combination with the green matrix,
it?s a new type of cell.
This summit gave us a chance to actually interact with the legislators. This kind of research
is very much beneficial to the state of Kansas because we?re investigating alternate source
of energy and particularly solar energy because Kansas is a sunny state. The legislators ultimately
decide the funding available for research and I think it?s important that they get the
information directly from the people doing the research and they can get an idea of how
important it is. So my hope in the future is it will get us funding and get us recognized.