Doe Science news source

The DOE Science News Source is a Newswise initiative to promote research news from the Office of Science of the DOE to the public and news media.
  • 2010-04-01 05:00:00
  • Article ID: 562891

Copying Plant Anatomy Promises New Photovoltaics

AMHERST, Mass. – A promising new polymer-based method for creating photovoltaic devices, which convert sunlight into electricity, has been identified by chemists at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Their new technique should lead to more efficient power production than achievable by the current generation of semiconductors.

The work by Sankaran Thayumanavan and colleagues at UMass Amherst, with others at the University of California-Riverside, is highlighted in the current issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society (JACS), a premier chemistry journal, for the clever way it mimics nature’s way of harnessing solar energy.

To achieve the breakthrough, Thayumanavan and co-workers took inspiration from plants and experimented with organic molecules to mimic the photosynthetic machinery of plants. Their new paper demonstrates how a photosynthesis-style photovoltaic device can be designed using large, highly branched, non-biological organic molecules called dendrimers, based on plant anatomy. Branches allow the dendrimer to absorb photons from a wide area and funnel this energy to the dendrimer’s core where it is connected to a polymer “wire.” At the core, charge is separated and the electrons travel down the polymer “wire” to an electrode where electricity is produced.

As Thayumanavan explains, “Our method is inspired by an energy-harnessing process that plants use in nature, which evolved over millions of years to be efficient in terms of capturing a lot of energy and transporting it short distances without power loss. In the future, photovoltaic devices may no longer rely on slower, less efficient human-made semiconductors. Our work should lead to lighter, more efficient and sustainable photovoltaics.” Thayumanavan, known to colleagues as “Thai,” is director of the UMass Amherst’s Fueling the Future Center for Chemical Innovation.

He adds, “The hope is that such a bio-inspired design could approach the conversion efficiency that plants achieve naturally.”

The recent JACS article by him and colleagues titled, “Dendritic and linear macromolecular architectures for photovoltaics: A photoinduced charge transfer investigation,” was selected by the journal editors to appear in a special section, “Harnessing Energy for a Sustainable World.” They predict that the research will transform the way engineers design future photovoltaic devices.

The editors add, “Innovation through scientific discovery is a necessary component of much societal advancement. To truly implement sustainable practices, energy must be harnessed more cleanly and stored for efficient distribution and use. This systems-level change sometimes referred to as the New Industrial Revolution, will require novel materials as well as savvy analysis and modeling to ensure success.”

A link to the editorial comments about this research article can be found at:

http://pubs.acs.org/doi/full/10.1021/ja1017738.

"Thai" Thayumanavan

413-545-1313

thai@chem.umass.edu

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Cold and Bubbly: The Sensory Qualities that Best Quench Thirst

New research from the Monell Center finds that oral perceptions of coldness and carbonation help to reduce thirst. The findings could guide sensory approaches to increase fluid intake in populations at risk for dehydration, including the elderly, soldiers, and athletes.

J.R. Macdonald Lab receives nearly $8 million DOE grant renewal

MANHATTAN -- A nearly $8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy is supporting the "bread and butter" physics research at Kansas State University's James R. Macdonald Laboratory. The grant is a three-year renewal award, "Structure and Dynamics of Atoms, Ions, Molecules and Surfaces." "This big operational grant is our bread-and-butter," said Itzik Ben-Itzhak, university distinguished professor of physics and director of the J.

University contributes art to the new downtown arena

A number of Sac State artworks are joining Jeff Koons' "Coloring Book" in exhibits at the new Golden 1 Center. (Sacramento State/Rob Neep) More photosSac State Professor Rachel Clarke and alumnus Bryan Valenzuela check out the installation of Valenzuela's "Multitudes Converge" glass sculpture at the Golden 1 Center.

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New Method for Reporting Solar Data

A straightforward new way to calculate, compile, and graphically present solar radiation measurements in a format that is accessible to decision makers and the general public has been developed by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin and is described in the Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy.

Trapped Sunlight Cleans Water

High energy costs are one drawback of making clean water from waste effluents. According to an article in the journal Biomicrofluidics, a new system that combines two different technologies proposes to break down contaminants using the cheapest possible energy source, sunlight.

Report: Policies to Spur Renewable Energy Can Lower Energy Costs

The South could pay less for its electricity in 20 years than is currently projected if strong public policies are enacted to spur renewable energy production and use, according to a report released today by researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology and Duke University.


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Citi Grant Helps University Students Succeed

Citi Community Development, part of the Citi family of businesses, supports an innovative Academic Success Program at South Dakota State University. The program is designed to help students who have been re-admitted to SDSU following suspension due to low academic achievement.

Iowa State Engineer and Goodrich Partner to Develop Fuel Nozzles

Hui Hu, an Iowa State University associate professor of aerospace engineering, is working with engineers from the Goodrich Corp. to test and characterize the next generation of fuel nozzles.

CSB to Hold Public Hearing Tomorrow, December 15, as Part of the CSB Deepwater Horizon Investigation

CSB Board Will Hear Testimony on how Offshore Drilling is Managed and Regulated in Other Countries

Cornell Joins Team Taking Head-first Plunge Into Algae Biofuels

Cornell University researchers have joined other scientists and a biofuel research company on a mission to develop a commercial-scale algae-to-fuel facility by 2015. The effort is backed by a $9 million award from the U.S. Department of Energy.

Engineering Researchers Partner With Toyota; DOE Grant Will Further Work Toward a More Efficient Charger for Hybrid-Electric Vehicles

A $3.9 million award from the U.S. Department of Energy will allow electrical engineering researchers at the University of Arkansas to continue contributing to the development of a compact and highly efficient silicon-carbide charger for hybrid electric vehicles. The benefits of the project extend beyond vehicles into other areas, such as wind and solar power, and could lead to reduced energy consumption in the United States.

Research Looks at Alternative Power for Military

South Dakota State University has a major role in a $10 million project to deliver alternative power technologies to help the U.S. military supply power to units in the field. The three-year project began in May 2009.

Mixing Blood and Oil: Conference Tackles Similar Challenges from Two Major Industries

Scientists and engineers from two of the nation's largest industries - medicine and energy - came together this week to explore the synergies in moving oil and pumping blood.

Time Ripe to Move Energy Storage Idea Off Drawing Board

Need has caught up with Case Western Reserve University researcher Gerhard Welsch's design for a self-healing, high-energy capacitor he patented a decade ago. ARPA-E has granted Welsch $2.25 million to start producing the small and lightweight device for hybrid and electric cars and more.

Registration Open for Sandia-Sponsored 4th International Conference on Integration of Renewable and Distributed Energy Resources

Registration is open for the 4th International Conference on the Integration of Renewable and Distributed Energy Resources, the premier event for technical discussion of electric integration of new energy resources.

Advanced Energy Conference To Illuminate Latest Technologies For 21st Century Clean Energy Economy

Leading Energy Organizations to Highlight Latest Job-Producing Energy Technologies at Nov. 8-9 Conference in N.Y.C.


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