The resulting structure had some interesting physical properties that could make it useful not only for solar energy production, but also for electric car batteries.
Part of the appeal is that no exotic materials are used. In fact, the peptides used are said to be as "inexpensive to produce as the artificial sweetener aspartame.
What makes this "peptide forest" so useful is that it repels both water and dust. So if solar panels were coated with it, they would be self-cleaning so often and could produce more clean energy. They could also be used to make self-cleaning windows (particularly useful on skyscrapers), though at first they would probably be used on solar panels since there would be a bigger economic benefit there.
But that's not all! As if this material wasn't useful enough, it can also be used as a supercapacitor (because of it's large surface area). It could potentially be used in electric vehicles in combination with a regular lithium-ion battery to more efficiently capture the short bursts of electricity produced by regenerative braking, and to provide more instant-power during hard acceleration.
The lab has already been approached to develop a commercial version of its coating technology.
The team's paper was just published in Nature Nanotechnology.