Pho­to­syn­the­sis could help de­sign more ef­fi­cient ar­ti­fi­cial so­lar cells

Chemical Industry Digest - - Renewables -

Anat­u­ral process that oc­curs dur­ing pho­to­syn­the­sis could lead to the de­sign of more ef­fi­cient ar­ti­fi­cial so­lar cells, ac­cord­ing to re­searchers at Ge­or­gia State Uni­ver­sity.

Re­searchers ex­plored a con­cept called “in­vert­e­dre­gion elec­tron trans­fer,” which could lead to new cells that could har­ness en­ergy, such as hy­dro­gen gas. The team an­a­lyzed the pho­to­syn­thetic re­ac­tion cen­ters found in the fresh­wa­ter cyanobac­terium species Syne­chocys­tis, which pos­sess the same ma­chin­ery used in this process as plants.

Dur­ing this pro­ce­dure, plants ab­sorb en­ergy from the sun, mak­ing an elec­tron move rapidly across the cell mem­brane. The elec­tron essen­tially never re­turns to its start­ing point, which is what makes so­lar en­ergy cap­ture so ef­fi­cient in plants. By con­trast, the elec­tron of­ten re­turns to its start­ing points in ar­ti­fi­cial so­lar cells, caus­ing the con­tained en­ergy to be lost.

“We were able to re­veal the ex­is­tence of the mech­a­nism for the first time by in­vent­ing a method to al­low us to suc­cess­fully un­der­take the re­quired chal­leng­ing ex­per­i­ments. Our find­ings point to new ways on how one might think about de­sign­ing ar­ti­fi­cial so­lar cells that can be used,” said lead author Dr. Gary Hast­ings, a pro­fes­sor in the Depart­ment of Physics and As­tron­omy at Ge­or­gia State.

This un­der­stand­ing could be use­ful in the so­lar mar­ket in­dus­try in the United States, which is fo­cused on en­hanc­ing pro­duc­tion of so­lar tech­nol­ogy and driv­ing down costs.” Our work has re­vealed one de­sign prin­ci­ple that is at play in ef­fi­cient so­lar en­ergy con­ver­sion in plants, and the hope is that this prin­ci­ple could be uti­lized in the de­sign of new and bet­ter types of ar­ti­fi­cial so­lar cells,” said Hast­ings. The study is pub­lished in the jour­nal Pro­ceed­ings of the Na­tional Academy of Sciences.

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