At the University of Florida, they’re doing more than winning national championships – they’re finding ways to make more efficient and less expensive solar cells. Well, not exactly, but they have found a way to control the molecules and thereby guide the energy along the most efficient path.
“This gives us a new way of studying light-matter interactions,” said Valeria Kleiman, UF associate professor of chemistry. “It enables us to study not just how the molecule reacts, but actually to change how it reacts, so we can test different energy transfer pathways and find the most efficient one.”
Scientists control this molecular behavior with encoded bits of laser light called “phased tailored laser pulses.” Essentially, different colors within the laser’s spectrum travel at separate speeds, allowing the chemists to control which branch of the dendrimers, or molecules, the energy flows through. Because of a dendrimer’s many-armed structure, it is particularly adept in energy applications. The reason that dendrimers are so interesting to the UF team is their complex “branching units,” which make them good energy absorbers. In fact, their name is derived from the Greek word meaning “tree.”
Thank you, University of Florida. I hope those dendrimers do create the highest efficiency solar cells to date.