Solar powered wasp

So I found out about this wasp that can turn sunlight into energy. I don't know enough to say much about it so I will just post the wikipedia page:'

and ask: Does anyone here know if it would be possible to do this with a human? How hard would it be?
I think it would be awesome to be able to gain energy from the sun.


  • The only problem that I can think of is this:  by the time your skin cells are close enough to the surface of your skin to be able to receive adequate sunlight, they're already dead.
  • ... Anyone know whether or not it's possible to alter skin's opacity?
  • We were discussing this wasp over here: (well, went off topic...)
    Actually we didn't come across the "skin is too thick" thing...
  • Light does penetrate the skin to a certain degree-


    As mentioned  in the other tread  Xanthopterin is toxic, so we probably want a different mechanism for getting energy.  Also we would want some sort of feedback loop on this mechanism so that we don't get an overload of sugar in the blood which would lead to fat buildup and diabetes.  
  • That last image was only for UV.  Here is a better one-

  • @crazyivan: thanks for that, that's a really good reference. I didn't much of any light made it through to the dermis - which is blatantly false when I think of how "edges" on my hand let light through when you hold it up to the sun....
  • Gah, confused pronouns. The moral here is, never edit. ",)
  • Why does UV penetrate the Stratum Corneum so weakly while IR can reach down to the Subcutis? 
  • Because UV is ionizing radiation, and we've evolved to minimize our chances of dying of skin cancer?
  • my intuition tells me it's all about wavelength. UV has a much shorter wavelength and is therefore faster absorbed.
  • @Unqualified :  Right about that, but it is just surprising as shorter wavelengths are really good at penetrating things.
  • the combination between material and wavelength it what matters.
    each material has a characteristic spectrum for absorbing, reflecting and "transparency". 
    red light seems to penetrate the skin quite well and solar cells are able to make good use of the red spectrum. so i guess it's possible to power very low power electronics from a small array of subdermal solar cells (small cells are available as smd-chips, usualy used for detecting light but they are nothing but tiny solar-panels).

    technical detail aside. 
    humans have a "idle" power consumtion of about 90 to 120 Joule per second.
    if you sit into the sun without drawing public attention due to uncommonly nature-loving outfits. you may be able to get some 0.6m² skin area into the direct sunlight. which is about 1200J/(s*m²)
    given you have that bio-solar-cell somewhere in your dermis where about 50% of the light would reach, and assuming that substance as an quite high efficiency of lets say 20%. you cant even cover your body's permanent energy demand (or if you manage you cut it quite close). but even if you can, you'll get a sunburn after a few hours.
    so as personal advice i'd recommend you better grow some vegetable using that sunlight. gets you delicious meals and you wont get skin-cancer.
  • The melatonin in our skin is made to absorb uv so we don't get damaged. so really it shouldn't make in very far. however longer wavelength have no pigments that absorb them nearly as efficiently.
  • From what I remember, that leaf is essentially a support scaffold for chloroplasts, which you still have to harvest from plants, then install into the body (in sufficient density) without an immune response.
  • I read recently of work to try and make a human electric organ similar to ones electric eels have. I can't find the article, but it's certainly interesting.
  • What I think you are forgetting ThomasEGI is the Krebs Cycle. Respiration is about 40% of the bodies energy source if you look down to a cellular level.   
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