Picture of the Day: Organic dyes work as antennas to convert light

Scientists at the US Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have demonstrated how organic dyes work as antennas to harness and convert light.

The picture shows an erbium atom (red) in a nanocrystal that emits visible, green light via a process known as upconversion. It’s been discovered that coating particles with dyes (blue and purple molecules, pictured at the right) can greatly enhance a light-converting property.

The research could lead to the development of improved solar cells that capture some previously missed solar energy.

The scientists discovered that coating the particles with dyes (blue and purple molecules at right) could “raise the possibility of capturing a good portion of the solar spectrum that otherwise goes to waste”, researchers said.

According to Berkeley Lab, the dye itself amplifies the brightness of the re-emitted light about 33,000-fold. Also, its interaction with the nanoparticles increases its efficiency in converting light by about 100 times.

“These organic dyes capture broad swaths of near-infrared light,” said Bruce Cohen, a scientist at Berkeley Lab’s Molecular Foundry (a nanoscience research centre) who helped to lead the study along with Molecular Foundry scientists P. James Schuck (now at Columbia University), and Emory Chan.

“Since the near-infrared wavelengths of light are often unused in solar technologies that focus on visible light,” Cohen added, “and these dye-sensitized nanoparticles efficiently convert near-infrared light to visible light, they raise the possibility of capturing a good portion of the solar spectrum that otherwise goes to waste, and integrating it into existing solar technologies.”

Researchers from UC Berkeley, the Korea Research Institute of Chemical Technology, Sungkyunkwan University in South Korea, and the Kavli Energy NanoScience Institute at UC Berkeley also participated in this study.

The study was published April 23 in Nature Photonics.

Thanks to Sue P. for highlighting this one.

Image: Berkeley Lab

[Via New Atlas]

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