President Obama recently touted algae as a potential source of energy, and now the Environmental Protection Agency has invested in converting spinach into an energy source.
The EPA awarded a $90,000 grant over the weekend to Vanderbilt University students "who designed a biohybrid solar panel that substitutes a protein from spinach for expensive silicon wafers that are energy intensive to produce, and is capable of producing electricity."
The team of engineering students -- Eric Dilbone, Phil Ingram, Trevan Locke, Paul McDonald and Jason Ogg -- "also won the Marketplace Innovation Award from Paladin Capital, a private equity firm, and the Student Choice Award, a special nod from their peers in competition," according to Vanderbilt.
The idea is that "a miniature bio-cell can produce minute electricity from Photosystem I (PSI), the protein in plant chloroplasts that converts light to electrochemical energy."
They won the grant despite "nagging doubts about how the slight power from the panel would convince the judges," one Vanderbilt professor explained.