A team of scientists at The University of Texas at Austin and the University of California, Riverside have discovered a method to produce a long-hypothesized phenomenon—the transfer of energy between silicon and organic, carbon-based molecules—in a discovery that has implications for information storage in quantum computing, photovoltaic energy conversion, and medical imaging. The research is released in the journal Nature Chemistry.
Silicon is one of the planet’s most abundant materials and a crucial element in everything from the semiconductors that power computers to the cells utilized in nearly all photovoltaic panels. For all of its abilities, nevertheless, silicon has some problems converting light into electricity. Different colors of lights involve photons, particles that carry light’s energy. Silicon can effectively convert red photons into electricity; however, with blue photons, which carry twice the power of red photons, silicon loses most of their energy as heat.
The new finding offers researchers with an approach to boost silicon’s efficiency by pairing it with a carbon-based material that converts blue photons into pairs of red photons that may be extra effectively utilized by silicon. This hybrid material can be squeezed to operate in reverse, taking in red light and turning it into blue light, which has implications for medical remedies and quantum computing.
For 40 years, researchers have hypothesized that coupling silicon with a type of organic material that efficiently absorbs blue and green light could be crucial to enhancing silicon’s ability to transform light into electricity.