Enhancing Light-Harvesting Efficiency With Hybrid Nano-Particles

Enhancing Light-Harvesting Efficiency With Hybrid Nano-Particles

By Energy CIO Insights | Thursday, June 20, 2019

Scientists have formulated a specialized biotic-abiotic nano-hybrid inspired from in-nature-architecture to enhance the efficiency of harvesting of solar energy and converting it into chemical energy for metabolic activities.

FREMONT, CA: At present, the best solar panels being used can convert nearly 23 percent of the sunlight that is absorbed into electricity, but their efficiency ranges only between 15 and 18 percent. To tackle this lack of effectiveness, scientists have worked relentlessly on biotic-abiotic nano-hybrids. The Chromophores are those kinds of protein molecules, which absorb the incoming sunlight in plants and selective bacteria. These complexes transport the solar energy to the photosynthetic reaction area for conversion to chemical energy. This holistic process of energy generation is the inspiration that stroke scientists to develop an assembled nano-hybrid structure that contains both biotic and abiotic materials.   

The combination includes a light capturing protein found in cyanobacteria, quantum dots (semiconducting nano-crystals), and a 2D semiconducting transition metal with a thickness of one atom. With the amalgamation of materials, a nanostructure with an ability to enhance the harvesting of energy from the sun.

Scientists have chosen an atomically thin platform for a bottom-up assembly. This platform is a semiconductor and an insulator. The build is to homogenize the platform with the quantum dots and proteins for enhancement. Each component is selected to play a specific role in the light harvesting and is engineered to enable a concerted stepwise transfer of energy in a unidirectional manner through the nano-hybrid.

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The energy transfer is similar to the natural systems that harvest light, where the Quantum Dots absorb light and divert the harvested energy to the proteins or intermediate chromophores and ultimately to the reaction area. The combinations of all these materials were carried out through electrostatic processes depending on the interaction of electrically charged particles. The scientists also used a special optical microscope to conduct the transfer through biotic-abiotic nano-hybrids.

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If the efficiency can be boosted to this intensity, more quantity of electricity can be generated. The assembled biotic-abiotic nano-hybrid showcases the enhanced harvesting of solar energy and conversion of it into electrical charge carriers. These properties are favorable to the nanohybrid's reactivity to light when the structured formation is subjected to a field-effect transistor (FET), a type of optoelectronic device.

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