New research is paving the pathway towards better and more efficient solar cells, as University of Florida chemists have invented a method of “hacking” the molecular structures of the materials the solar cells are made of, in order to gain a maximum transfer efficiency from them. That could lead to cheaper solar cells in the future.
“This gives us a new way of studying light-matter interactions,” said Valeria Kleiman, a UF associate professor of chemistry. “It 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 and her team worked with molecules called dendrimers, or repeatedly branched molecules (see picture). Dendrimers are very good energy absorbers, but the amount of energy these polymer molecules can amass and transfer depends on the path that the energy takes while it moves through the molecule.
Valeria Kleiman and three of her colleagues are the first to gain control of this process in real time, as they demonstrated that they could use phase-modulated laser pulses to determine the energy to travel on different paths. This is possible because the laser’s constituent colors travel at different speeds. “What we see is that we control where the energy goes by encoding different information in the excitation pulses,” she said.
Future researchers testing new molecular structures for their energy storage capacity and transfer efficiency may be able to use a new spectroscopic tool, that could quickly identify the best molecular structure for making