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Assignment 1 Plant Cell and Solar Cells Dawna Berry Introduction to Biology SCI 115 Professor Tamara Allen

n July 21, 2012

(Toothman)A solar cell (also called a photovoltaic cell) is an electrical device that converts the energy of light directly into electricity by the photovoltaic effect. It is a form of photoelectric cell (in that its electrical characteristics-- e.g. current, voltage, or resistance-- vary when light is incident upon it) which, when exposed to light, can generate and support an electric current without being attached to any external voltage source. Plant cells are eukaryotic cells that differ in several key respects from the cells of other eukaryotic organisms. Plant cells differ from animal cells in lacking:

centrioles intermediate filaments

and having:

plastids a cell wall large vacuoles

Chloroplasts are the most familiar plastids. They are usually disk-shaped and about 5-8 m in diameter and 2-4 m thick. A typical plant cell has 20-40 of them. Chloroplasts are green because they contain chlorophylls the pigments that harvest the light used in photosynthesis. Chloroplasts are probably the descendants of cyanobacteria that took up residence in the ancestor of the plants. The rigid cell wall of plants is made of fibrils of cellulose embedded in a matrix of several other kinds of polymers such as pectin and lignin.

How are they similar: Plant cells and solar cells BOTH convert sunlight into energy. In the case of plants it is chemical energy - for solar cells it is electricity. Plants use organic processes but solar cells use inorganic semiconductors.

How do they differ: A solar cell or a photovoltaic cell converts the light energy from the sun directly into electricity and is non-organic but a plant cell is an organic piece of matter which contains chloroplasts in its cytoplasm which absorb light energy from the Sun and convert it into glucose (chemical energy) during the process of photosynthesis. It begs the deeper question of which one values more: the sheer quantity of electrons produced so-called efficiencyor the transformation of sunlight into stored chemical energy? After all, storage is a high-value proposition that has made fossil oil, originally derived from plants so valuablecheap, energy dense, easy to transport and storable for later use. That is not the case for electricity from the sunor any other sourcewhich must be captured the instant it is produced and currently has a limited and expensive option for storage: batteries.

The last but final question is how does the law of thermodynamics apply to each system? The first law dictates that the power (energy per unit time) output from a solar cell cannot exceed the power of the light landing on it. The second law dictates that the efficiency of the solar cell must be less than 100% no matter how good the cell is and lastly some of the energy will be lost as heat output to the surroundings. For the plant cell the first law does not apply as it is not an isolated system. The second law - it needs energy input for maintenance and growth, as this reduces entropy. The third law does not apply except under lab conditions, as a plant never experiences near-absolute zero temperatures.

References: Zeit News, Plants versus Photovoltaics: Which Are Better to Capture Solar Energy? Scientific America 2010, retrieved July 21, 2012 at; http://www.zeitnews.org/energy/plants-versusphotovoltaics-which-are-better-to-capture-solar-energy.html

Toothman, J. and Aldous, S.; How the Solar Cells Work; From: How Stuff Works; retrieved July 21, 2012 at; http://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/energy/solar-cell.htm

Keagan, A Excell at Cells at Oracle ThinkQuest Education Foundation retrieved July 21, 2012 at; http://library.thinkquest.org/5420/cellsplt.htm

I am not sure if this is right?