Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

More efficient solar cells imitate photosynthesis

16.01.2019

The smallest building blocks within the power stations of organisms which get their energy directly from the sun are basically miniature reactors surrounded by collectors which capture photons and forward them to the centre. The close correlation between structure and interaction of the components boosts productivity, a strategy which an international team of researchers is using for increasing the efficiency of solar technology. At Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU), research is being carried out in this area by the Chair of Physical Chemistry I. Their latest results have been published in the journal Nature Chemistry (https://doi.org/10.1038/s41557-018-0172-y).

Green plants, algae and some bacteria use sunlight to convert energy. The pigments in chlorophyll absorb electromagnetic radiation which induces chemical reactions in electrons. These reactions take place in the nucleus of complex protein structures, referred to by experts as photosystems I and II.


The processes which take place in these photosystems are induced by catalysts in a certain order. In the first step, oxygen is released from water. The following reaction prepares the production of carbohydrates for which no further source of energy is needed.

The reaction centres of the photosystems are encircled by light-absorbing pigments grouped into consolidated complexes. These antennae increase the area available for light rays to hit and extend the spectrum of usable wavelengths, both prerequisites for a favourable energy balance.

Each reactor core is surrounded by approximately 30 antennae. Experiments conducted by scientists are still far from replicating the complexity of nature. In general, a ratio of 1:1 is the best that can be achieved: one light-absorbing molecule in combination with one catalyst for oxidising water.

The group of researchers led by Prof. Dr. Dirk Guldi and his former employee Dr. Konstantin Dirian hope to revolutionise solar technology by synthesising modules based on the correlation between structure and function in photosystem II.

In the newly developed systems, light-absorbing crystals such as those which are already used in LEDs, transistors and solar cells are layered into a network of hexagonal honeycombs around a water-oxidising catalyst with four ruthenium metal atoms in the centre.

When shown in a rather simplified manner, the compact, stable units made up of two components with a common long axis are reminiscent of cylindrical batteries. In the self-assembling chemical process, such ‘miniature power stations’ create two dimensional slats. Like layers in a gateau, they form a common block which collects the energy won from the sun’s rays.

This is not an entirely accurate reproduction of the ideal arrangement found in the natural photosystem, but the principle is the same. Five macromolecules in the shape of a honeycomb with the ability to capture light create a sheath around each reactor core, and it has been shown that these small power stations are efficient and successful at harvesting sun energy.

They have an efficiency of over 40 percent, losses are minimal. Wavelengths from the green portion of the colour spectrum, which plants reflect, can also be used. These research results nourish the hope that solar technology can one day make use of the sun’s energy as efficiently as nature.

Wissenschaftliche Ansprechpartner:

Further information:
Prof. Dr. Dirk Guldi
Phone: +49 9131 85 27340
dirk.guldi@fau.de

Dr. Susanne Langer | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft
Further information:
http://www.fau.de/

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht An ion channel with a doorkeeper: The pH of calcium ions controls ion channel opening
25.06.2019 | Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz

nachricht Symbiotic upcycling: Turning “low value” compounds into biomass
25.06.2019 | Max-Planck-Institut für Marine Mikrobiologie

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Fraunhofer IDMT demonstrates its method for acoustic quality inspection at »Sensor+Test 2019« in Nürnberg

From June 25th to 27th 2019, the Fraunhofer Institute for Digital Media Technology IDMT in Ilmenau (Germany) will be presenting a new solution for acoustic quality inspection allowing contact-free, non-destructive testing of manufactured parts and components. The method which has reached Technology Readiness Level 6 already, is currently being successfully tested in practical use together with a number of industrial partners.

Reducing machine downtime, manufacturing defects, and excessive scrap

Im Focus: Successfully Tested in Praxis: Bidirectional Sensor Technology Optimizes Laser Material Deposition

The quality of additively manufactured components depends not only on the manufacturing process, but also on the inline process control. The process control ensures a reliable coating process because it detects deviations from the target geometry immediately. At LASER World of PHOTONICS 2019, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be demonstrating how well bi-directional sensor technology can already be used for Laser Material Deposition (LMD) in combination with commercial optics at booth A2.431.

Fraunhofer ILT has been developing optical sensor technology specifically for production measurement technology for around 10 years. In particular, its »bd-1«...

Im Focus: The hidden structure of the periodic system

The well-known representation of chemical elements is just one example of how objects can be arranged and classified

The periodic table of elements that most chemistry books depict is only one special case. This tabular overview of the chemical elements, which goes back to...

Im Focus: MPSD team discovers light-induced ferroelectricity in strontium titanate

Light can be used not only to measure materials’ properties, but also to change them. Especially interesting are those cases in which the function of a material can be modified, such as its ability to conduct electricity or to store information in its magnetic state. A team led by Andrea Cavalleri from the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter in Hamburg used terahertz frequency light pulses to transform a non-ferroelectric material into a ferroelectric one.

Ferroelectricity is a state in which the constituent lattice “looks” in one specific direction, forming a macroscopic electrical polarisation. The ability to...

Im Focus: Determining the Earth’s gravity field more accurately than ever before

Researchers at TU Graz calculate the most accurate gravity field determination of the Earth using 1.16 billion satellite measurements. This yields valuable knowledge for climate research.

The Earth’s gravity fluctuates from place to place. Geodesists use this phenomenon to observe geodynamic and climatological processes. Using...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

2nd International Conference on UV LED Technologies & Applications – ICULTA 2020 | Call for Abstracts

24.06.2019 | Event News

SEMANTiCS 2019 brings together industry leaders and data scientists in Karlsruhe

29.04.2019 | Event News

Revered mathematicians and computer scientists converge with 200 young researchers in Heidelberg!

17.04.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

For a better climate in the cities: Start-up develops maintenance-free, evergreen moss façades

25.06.2019 | Architecture and Construction

An ion channel with a doorkeeper: The pH of calcium ions controls ion channel opening

25.06.2019 | Life Sciences

Cooling with the sun

25.06.2019 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>