Enhancing power density of biophotovoltaics by decoupling storage and power delivery

14 Feb 2018

Biophotovoltaic devices (BPVs), which use photosynthetic organisms as active materials to harvest light, have a range of attractive features relative to synthetic and non-biological photovoltaics, including their environmentally friendly nature and ability to self-repair. However, efficiencies of BPVs are currently lower than those of synthetic analogues. Here, we demonstrate BPVs delivering anodic power densities of over 0.5 W m−2, a value five-fold higher than for previously described BPVs. We achieved this through the use of cyanobacterial mutants with increased electron export characteristics together with a microscale flowbased design that allowed independent optimisation of the charging and power delivery processes, as well as membrane-free operation by exploiting laminar flow to separate the catholyte and anolyte streams. These results suggest that miniaturisation of active elements and flow control for decoupled operation and independent optimisation of the core processes involved in BPV design are effective strategies for enhancing power output and thus the potential of BPVs as viable systems for sustainable energy generation.