By Kris Walker
Heterostructures based on 2D atomic crystals can be used for photovoltaic applications. Credit: The University of Manchester
Something straight out of a science fiction film is fastly becoming an exciting reality as scientists from the University of Manchester have discovered a material which combines graphene, a one-atom thick layer of graphite, with the transition metal dichalcogenides.
The material is thin and flexible, and it can absorb sunlight to produce electricity at the same rates of existing solar panels.
This could be potentially used to coat the outside of buildings to generate power required to run appliances inside.
The material is composed of transition metal dichalcogenides layers sandwiched between the two outer layers of graphene. The graphene acts as an extremely efficient conductive layer, and the TMDC acts as a very sensitive light absorber.
Researchers have found that the 'light absorption characteristic' of the material can be increased when the graphene layer is sprinkled with gold particles. The material has a quantum efficiency of 30%.
Researchers believe that entire buildings could be powered by coating their exposed surfaces with the panels. Further, the energy produced by the panels could be used to alter the transparency and reflectivity of windows and fixtures.
This type of graphene material could be used to form on the outside of the buildings to generate power required to run the appliances inside. It is flexible and easy to use.
Not only can graphene paint be used to power objects, the material will also be able to chaneg color.
Researchers also believe that the graphene base substance has the ability to create a new generation of hand-held devices such as smartphones that can be powered using sunlight. These devices can be made ultra-thin, transparent and flexible.
Research suggests that there can be a high level of optimism regarding the development of graphene in the near future.
They hope that the material can be used for a wide range of industrial and day-to-day applications, providing potential technological breakthroughs in the areas, right from electronics to telecommunications and energy generation.
They also feel that the new opportunities provided by the heterostructures based on the two-dimensional atomic crystals are helpful in covering a large parameter space as Professor Kostya Novoselov states 'such photoactive heterostructures add yet new possibilities, and pave the road for new types of experiments. As we create more and more complex heterostructures, so the functionalities of the devices will become richer, entering the realm of multifunctional devices.'
These complex photoactive heterostructures could also pave the way for new experiments on multifunctional devices in the future.
This is further backed up by the University of Manchester and Lead Author Dr Liam Britnel who states 'It was impressive how quickly we passed from the idea of such photosensitive heterostructures to the working device. It worked practically from the very beginning and even the most unoptimised structures showed very respectable characteristics'.
I am getting more and more excited by the potential of graphene each day and this technology has again made me stand up and take notice.
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