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Self-assembled nanomaterials could improve solar collectors

Solar Surge

Clean energy sources such as wind and solar power are being used more often than conventional options such as coal. According to the Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, the energy generated by solar energy in the US has grown more than 17 times since 2008, to power an average of 5.7 million American households.

These existing solar systems are still rather inefficient in collecting solar energy with a theoretical efficiency of about 33 percent. This inefficiency could soon be improved by new self-assembling nanomaterials developed by researchers from the Advanced Science Research Center (ASRC) of the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY).

Picking Up Nano Pieces [1
9659002] In an article published earlier this month in the journal Physical Chemistry researchers from ASRC at CUNY describe newly-developed nanomaterials that use a method called singlet cleavage to extend the lifetime of harvestable electrons. Although it was first observed in 1965, the exact process of singleton cleavage is still a topic of much discussion in molecular physics.

Essentially, the process allows more time for the excited electrons produced by light absorption. The team's research suggests that these materials can generate more usable charges and increase the theoretical efficiency of solar cells by as much as 44 percent. By combining different versions of the commonly used industrial dyes diketopyrrolopyrrole (DPP) and rylene, the team developed materials with self-organizing properties. Each combination had slightly different factors that accounted for the combination's success in producing energy.

Like a Spark

Now that you've come up with a way to extract the energy that is generated from harvested sunlight, the next step is to figure out how to capture all of the energy generated in the process. Even if such a process can take time, the first results open up new avenues for experimentation.

"This work provides us with a library of nanomaterials that we can study for the production of solar energy," said Professor Adam Braunschweig Researchers of the study: "Our method of combining the dyes into functional materials by means of self-assembly means that we carefully evaluate their properties

READ MORE: Self-organizing nanomaterials pave the way to more efficient and affordable use of solar energy [EurekAlert] More on energy: This industrial blue dye could help us build better batteries

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