Solar energy is often inefficient and difficult to utilize in cloudier climates. Now a Tel Aviv University (TAU) scientist is suggesting that the solution to these difficulties may lie on your dinner plate.

A nano-machine found in the common pea plant might be harnessed to change light into an energy source to provide electric power, according to research by Prof. Nathan Nelson of TAU’s Department of Biochemistry.

“My research aims to come close to achieving the energy production plants obtain when they convert sun to sugars in their green leaves,” Nelson explains.

The Israeli scientist and his team have created a solar energy device from a plant protein structure. “Looking at the most complicated membrane structure found in a plant, we deciphered a complex membrane protein structure which is the core of our new proposed model for developing ‘green’ energy,” says Nelson, a structural biologist.

“One can imagine our amazement and joy when, upon illumination of those crystals placed on gold-covered plates, we were able to generate a voltage of 10 volts. This won’t solve our world’s energy problem, but this could be assembled in power switches for low-power solar needs, for example,” Nelson concludes.