Self-Assembling Nanomaterials Offer Affordable Harnessing of Solar Power

To develop the materials, researchers combined various versions of two frequently used industrial dyes diketopyrrolopyrrole (DPP) and rylene.

Affordable harvesting of solar energy

New nanomaterials developed by researchers at the Advanced Science Research Center (ASRC) at The Graduate Center of The City University of New York (CUNY) could provide a pathway to more efficient and potentially affordable harvesting of solar energy.

The materials, created by scientists with the ASRC’s Nanoscience Initiative, use a process called singlet fission to produce and extend the life of harvestable light-generated electrons. The discovery is described in a newly published paper in the Journal of Physical Chemistry. Early research suggests these materials could create more usable charges and increase the theoretical efficiency of solar cells up to 44 percent.

“We modified some of the molecules in commonly used industrial dyes to create self-assembling materials that facilitate a greater yield of harvestable electrons and extend the electrons’ excited-state lifetimes, giving us more time to collect them in a solar cell,” said Andrew Levine, lead author of the paper and a Ph.D. student at The Graduate Center.

The self-assembly process, Levine explained, causes the dye molecules to stack in a particular way. This stacking allows dyes that have absorbed solar photons to the couple and share energy with or “excite” neighbouring dyes. The electrons in these dyes then decouple so that they can be collected as harvestable solar energy.

To develop the materials, researchers combined various versions of two frequently used industrial dyes diketopyrrolopyrrole (DPP) and rylene. This resulted in the formation of six self-assembling superstructures, which scientists investigated using electron microscopy and advanced spectroscopy. They found that each combination had subtle differences in geometry that affected the dyes’ excited states, the occurrence of singlet fission, and the yield and lifetime of harvestable electrons.

The research team’s next challenge is to develop a method of harvesting the solar charges created by their new nanomaterials. Currently, they are working to design a rylene molecule that can accept the electron from the DPP molecule after the singlet fission process. If successful, these materials would both initiate the singlet fission process and facilitate charge-transfer into a solar cell.

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Ayush Verma

Ayush Verma

Ayush is a staff writer at saurenergy.com and writes on renewable energy with a special focus on solar and wind. Prior to this, as an engineering graduate trying to find his niche in the energy journalism segment, he worked as a correspondent for iamrenew.com.

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