Researchers have drawn inspiration from the plant world to create novel and efficient nanoparticles that could be utilized to create future solar panels.
The University of Surrey’s team of engineers and biologists created nanoparticles that imitate what chlorophyll (the green pigment found in most plants) does in nature: absorb light and convert it to useful energy with great efficiency.
Light-absorbing pigments’ effectiveness drops when it is tightly packed and hence previous attempts were not able to match what nature did. Researchers from Surrey describe how they generated a unique synthetic pigment that maintains its luminous intensity for longer in the study.
Mother Nature can teach us so much as we all think of ways to nurse our planet back to health. In this study, we looked at how light is absorbed, enhanced, and utilized in biological systems, and we have incorporated those mechanisms into our own hybrid devices.
Michael Spencer, Study Lead Author and PhD Student, University of Surrey,
Spencer added, “The performance of our device gives us hope that the solar panels of the future can ditch the use of toxic materials currently used to maintain their intensity.”
The novel solution by the researchers employs nanoparticles as a substrate for light absorbers, demonstrating increased efficiency under specific conditions and providing a regulated way to continue research and ultimate implementation of high-efficiency artificial light converters.
Solar panels are a crucial part of our journey towards net-zero carbon; we need to think outside of the box if future high-efficiency solar panels are to meet their full potential. The creative thinking exhibited by this team is exactly what is needed to make sure solar meets and exceeds expectations.
Professor Ravi Silva, Director, Advanced Technology Institute, University of Surrey
“The deployment of solar technologies can happen decades faster than nuclear at present, and even in the UK, solar electricity generation costs are much cheaper”, stated Prof. Silva.
The study was supported by the Leverhulme Trust. The research report was published in Cell Reports Physical Science. The Advanced Technology Institute and Quantum Biology Doctoral Training Centre at the University of Surrey produced the work.
Spencer, M. G., et al. (2022) Resonant quenching of photoluminescence in porphyrin-nanocarbon agglomerates. Cell Reports Physical Science doi:10.1016/j.xcrp.2022.100916.