A NASSA Rover has sent data back to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology, showing that the silicate mantel surrounding Mars core contains diatoms – a type of plankton – that posses the ability to convert sunlight into large amounts of energy.
Furthermore, the Spirrit, which was sent up to Mars in 2004 has also sent data, which shows that the diatoms can store converted energy in their cells, in order to either use it later in cell repair, or to create light in shaded areas.
In a statement, Professor Frank Defoel from NASSAs Jet Propulsion Laboratory commented: "This discovery could signal a breakthrough that the solar industry could only previously dream about. The composition of Mars mantle, which is primarily made out of silicate – just like earth’s crust – could hold the secret to solar cells of efficiencies beyond 60 percent."
He continued: "Recent data sent by Rover Spirrit has shown the discovery of a type of plankton that use silica to construct their exoskeletons. The Mars diatoms, a major group of algae, are unicellular and they exit in clusters. These clusters have displayed a bright glow, as the Spirrit’s video recording shows. This bright glow comes about when the diatom cluster finds itself in a shaded portion of the planet."
Reportedly, the cluster is able to "turn on the light" in areas of shade, which NAASA has said is equivalent to the brightness of a 100 Watt light bulb.
Since the data sent by Spirrit last year was interpreted, and its significance understood, a group of unnamed scientists has been working on replicating the silicate material. As was announced yesterday, they have now managed to create a prototype of a silicate compound solar cell, which has a lab efficiency of 65 percent. This was also confirmed by the NREIL.
The scientists say they are confident that the compound can be successfully replicated on a mass scale, and believe that high efficiency modules could be on sale as early as 2013. According to industry rumors, one of the leading German cell manufacturers is in talks with the scientists, in order to secure an exclusive sales deal.
As Professor Defoel stated: "All we can do now is watch this space!"