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Researchers develop materials that can revolutionize how solar energy is used

Materials that can revolutionize how sunlight is used

Magnetic field data showing the formation and decomposition of excitons created by a single fission. Credit: A. Asadpur Darwish, MacKay Lab

Researchers at Columbia University have developed a way to harness more power than a single fission to increase the efficiency of solar cells, providing a tool to help spur the development of next-generation devices.

In a study published this month in Natural chemistry, the team details the design of organic molecules that are capable of generating two excitons of the photon of light, a process called single fission. The excitons are produced rapidly and can live much longer than those produced by their inorganic counterparts, leading to the amplification of photon-absorbed electricity from a solar cell.

"We have developed a new design rule for individual fission materials," said Luis Campos, an associate professor of chemistry and one of the study's three lead researchers. "This has led us to date developing the most efficient and technologically useful intramolecular singlet separators. These improvements will open the door to more efficient solar cells. "

All modern solar panels work the same process – one photon light creates one exciton, Campos explained. The exciton can then be turned into electricity. However, there are several molecules that can be applied to solar cells that have the ability to generate two excitons from a single photon – a process called single fission. These solar cells are the basis for next-generation devices that are still in their infancy. However, one of the biggest challenges for working with such molecules is that both exciters "live" for a very short time (tens of nanoseconds), making it difficult to collect them as a form of electricity.

In the current study, funded in part by the Office of Naval Research, Campos and colleagues designed organic molecules that can quickly generate two exciters that live much longer than modern systems. It is a breakthrough that can not only be used in next-generation solar power generation, but also in photocatalytic processes in chemistry, sensors and imaging, Campos explained, because these exciters can be used to initiate chemical reactions that can then are used by industry to make medicines, plastics and many other types of consumer chemicals.

"Intramolecular single fission was demonstrated by our group and others, but the excitons obtained were generated very slowly or will not last very long," Campos said. "This work is the first to show that a single fission can quickly generate two excitons that can live very long. This opens the door for a fundamental study of how these excitons behave while sitting on individual molecules, and also to understand how you can be efficiently deployed in devices that benefit from light-amplified signals. "

The team's design strategy should also prove useful in certain areas of scientific study and have many other still unthinkable applications, he added.

Solar Power Gains Amplification: Single-piece fission work can increase solar cell efficiency by as much as 30 percent

More info:
Andrew B. Pan and more. Ultra fast intramolecular single fission to permanent multi-molecularly designed molecules, Natural chemistry (2019). DOI: 10.1038 / s41557-019-0297-7

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Columbia University

Researchers Develop Materials That Can Revolutionize How Solar Light is Used (2019, August 19)
Retrieved August 19, 2019
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