WINSTON-SALEM, N.C., April 30 (UPI) -- A purple berry used by U.S. Civil War soldiers to write letters home could be used to advance solar power in poor rural areas, scientists said.
Pokeberries proliferate even during drought and in rocky, infertile soil, said David Carroll, director of Wake Forest University's Center for Nanotechnology and Molecular Materials.
When applied to fiber-based solar cells, the berry's dye acts as an absorber, helping the cell's fibers capture more sunlight to convert into power, Carroll said in a release from the university Thursday.
"They're weeds. They grow on every continent but Antarctica," Carroll said.
Newly developed fiber-based solar cells can produce twice as much power as current flat-cell technology and are less expensive to produce, he said.
"It's a low-cost solar cell that can be made to work with local, low-cost agricultural crops like pokeberries and with a means of production that emerging economies can afford," Carroll said.