Solar sponge

Two prototype antennas have been built on a chemical test bed built on a half-synthetic, half-natural ring of protein and pigments by student Michelle Harris and research scientist Darek Niedzwiedzki at Washington University in St Louis. One incorporates the synthetic dyes Oregon Green and Rhodamine Red and the other combines Oregon Green and a synthetic version of the bacterial pigment bacteriochlorophyll that absorbs light in the near-infrared region of the spectrum. Both designs soak up more of the sun’s spectrum than native antennas in purple bacteria that provided the inspiration and some components for the test bed and point the way to novel artificial photosynthesis systems for absorbing energy from sunlight.