Tempehnium, a newly discovered artificial element, has shown amazingphoto-reactive, semiconducting capabilities. So much so that scientistsat the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have developed aphotovoltaic cell that is 113.5 percent efficient at converting sunlight into electricity.
“We’re amazed,” said Lawrence Aimes, Ph.D., lead researcher of thetempehnium photovoltaic research. “Who knew that tempeh could solve theworld’s energy problems?”
Tempehnium was discovered in Portland, Ore., at the PacificExperience Food Co. Workers rinsing equipment used for tempeh-making let the wet equipment dry in the sun and were surprised to find that within seconds of exposure to sunlight, water in the pans vaporized, leaving a yellowish, dusty residue.
The residue, it turns out, was a previously unrealized artificialelement created by the reaction of fungus to soy, hippie grease andOregon’s moist climate.
Co-owner of the company Mike Renaldo discovered the odd byproduct.
"I was like, whoa, man," he said."This shit is far out."
The discovery might have gone unnoticed, but Renaldo mentioned it tohis wife, Cheryl, a doctoral candidate at the University of Portland inOregon. Curious, she asked him to repeat what had occurred.
“I was flabbergasted,” Cheryl Renaldo said. “I’d never seen anythinglike it.” She took the residue to the university, where upon furtherstudy, it was determined to be a new element.
Researchers at the university tested the properties of the elementand determined that, when combined with copper and nickel—both elementswere present in the tempeh-making equipment—it was highlyphoto-reactive.
The university is now working with the Lawrence Berkeley Lab to testtempehnium’s other properties, it also promises to cure baldness, forinstance, and provide a lackluster, unsatisfying substitute for pork insome dishes.
“With a little coaxing and experimentation, we’ve already been ableto create a photovoltaic device capable of converting sunlight intoelectricity at a 113.5 efficiency rate,” Aimes said. “We think we couldgo higher.”
Only a small amount of tempehnium is needed for each photovoltaicdevice, and the other two materials, copper and nickel, are readilyavailable.
“We think we could have tempehnium-based thin-film photovoltaics tomarket within a year,” Aimes said. “What’s more, we’ll be able toproduce photovoltaics that are much cheaper than coal and natural gas.We’re targeting 15 cents per watt with this technology. It’s simplyastounding.”
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