Better and Cheaper Solar Cells: Gaining Control of Light-Harvesting Pathways

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New research at the University of Florida (UF) has just brought to light a new method in the capturing and guiding of energy that may lead to cheaper and more efficient solar cells.

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The path energy takes as it moves through a molecule affects how much energy the molecule can accumulate and transfer. As the press release for this new study reports, “(Valeria) Kleiman and three co-authors are the first to gain control of this process in real time.” They used “phased tailored laser pulses” or “light whose constituent colors travel at different speeds” to get energy to travel down different paths. As Kleiman found, they could influence where energy went by “encoding different information in the excitation pulses.”

Solar energy or photovoltaic researchers should now be able to identify the best molecular structures for photovoltaic devices (for storing energy and transferring energy) and create cheaper and more efficient solar cells.

Delving into the findings more, Valeria Kleiman states that this new way of studying light-matter interactions “enables us to study not just how the molecule reacts, but actually to change how it reacts, so we can test different energy transfer pathways and find the most efficient one.”

Kleiman says: “Imagine you want to go from here to Miami, and the road is blocked somewhere. With this process, we’re able to say, ‘Don’t take that road, follow another one instead.‘”

This is an exciting finding and looks like it is one solar energy researchers and the public have been searching and hoping for.

The new findings came out in the journal Science on Friday. Authors included Daniel Kuroda, C.P. Singh, Zhonghua Peng, and Valeria Kleiman. The research was funded by the University of Florida (UF) and the National Science Foundation (NSF).

via EurekAlert!

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Image Credit 1: Clearly Ambiguous via flickr under a Creative Commons license

Image Credit 2: Chandra Marsono via flickr under a Creative Commons license

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Zachary Shahan

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