Catching up on my reading post-vacation and just came across this fun item from ExtremeTech about an MIT researcher who is testing ways to fashion solar panels from various forms of agricultural waste, like grass clippings or dead leaves.
The idea is to combine the agricultural stuff with some chemicals, to trigger photosynthesis. That, in turn, will give you chlorophyll. The mixture can be spread on glass covered with zinc oxide nanowires and titanium dioxide "sponges." Add sunlight, light is absorbed and the wires conduct electricity.
At least that is the theory. As ExtremeTech reports, however, this technique is seriously inefficient: the current tests are producing a panel with an efficiency of just 0.1 percent. To be even remotely practical for even teeny tiny applications -- like an LED light in your garden -- you need to reach at least 1 percent, the blog reports.
Still, you've got to love the creativity and ingenuity of ideas and research like this. Even if solar never becomes a mainstream source of energy for entire households, you can see how it might pick up the slack for many, many smaller applications.
Every little bit counts.