Fern leaves inspire scientists to create unique electrodes

Despite the constant improvement of solar cells, their efficiency is not increasing as quickly as we would like. Engineers at the Royal Melbourne University of Technology (RMIT, Australia) have developed new thin electrodes with increased capacity that can collect and store solar energy.

Devices using energy from the sun are usually divided into two categories: large, bulky installations and mini-devices that consume little or no energy. The graphene-based electrode, developed by Australian scientists, is intended to occupy a niche between the two. Its special properties were obtained thanks to a natural prototype - the American fern.

"Fern leaves are densely veined, which makes them very efficient at storing energy and transporting nutrient juices within the plant, " explains study co-author Min Gu. "Our electrode with this structure is an efficient device for storing solar energy at the nanoscale."

The new electrodes will find application in supercapacitors. Compared to conventional batteries, supercapacitors can be much thinner, stronger and have higher power outputs. These characteristics make them indispensable for wearable electronics and even for cars. Their most serious drawback is insufficient capacitance, which can be overcome with a unique electrode.

Since it is made of graphene, it can be thin and flexible. Using a “leafy” structure, scientists hope to create a thin solar cell capable of collecting and storing energy.