This proof-of-concept version of the photoelectrochemical cell (Image: Patrick Gillooly)
One of the problems with harvesting sunlight and converting it into stored energy is that the sun’s rays can be highly destructive to many materials, leading to a gradual degradation of many systems developed to do just that. Once again, researchers have turned to nature for a solution. Plants constantly break down their light-capturing molecules and reassemble them from scratch, so the basic structures that capture the sun’s energy are, in effect, always brand new. By imitating this strategy MIT scientists have created a novel set of self-assembling molecules and used them to create a photovoltaic cell that repairs itself.