German-French research initiative: physicists from the University of Jena and partners are developing and testing innovative materials for possible use as high-efficiency solar cells. Their research project, ‘Quest for Energy’, is being funded until 2022 with around one million euros from the German Academic Exchange Service.
It is crucial that we prevent the Earth from warming by more than two degrees Celsius compared with the pre-industrial era. This is a key aim of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. To achieve this goal, greenhouse gas emissions have to be drastically reduced. And for this to happen, we need a global energy revolution, with fossil fuels such as oil, gas and coal being largely replaced by renewable energy sources.
So far, so obvious. However, it is well known that difficulties are being experienced in reaching these climate goals, and Dr Michael Zürch is certain that this is not just due a lack of political will. “It would definitely be possible to accelerate the energy transition if, for example, we had better solar technology,” says Zürch, a physicist who obtained his PhD at Friedrich Schiller University in Jena and has been doing research at the renowned University of California at Berkeley since 2015.
He points out that the silicon-based solar modules currently in use have an efficiency of at most 20 per cent. In other words: with current modules, more than three-quarters of the solar energy cannot be used. “We need alternatives to silicon that enable a more efficient conversion of solar energy into electricity,” adds Zürch.
Over the next four years, Zürch will be focusing intensively on these alternatives. With colleagues at the Chair of Quantum Electronics of the University of Jena, as well as French and US partners, he is launching his ‘Quest for Energy’ research project. The German Academic Exchange Service is funding the project until 2022 with around one million euros, as part of the German-French research initiative ‘Make our planet great again’.
Two-dimensional semiconductor materials to replace silicon
A promising class of materials that could supersede silicon in solar modules is that of semiconductor nanomaterials, as Prof Christian Spielmann explains. “These two-dimensional layers, which are just a few atoms thick, possess quite extraordinary optical and electronic properties, which make them ideally suited as semiconductors,” adds Spielmann, in whose team Zürch’s project is now based. The best-known example of such 2D nanomaterials is graphene. However, the physicists in Jena want to explore a new class of these materials that has hardly been studied to date: transition metal dichalcogenides.
“These are composite materials, the properties of which vary depending on their composition and which could therefore be tailored for use in a variety of applications,” Zürch explains. However, little is known so far about the fundamental processes in these materials when they interact with light. Due to their special nano-properties, the physical processes in these materials are especially fast. The physicists now want to investigate these properties in detail, to assess their suitability as a solar material.
“Our specific aim is to observe the charge carriers – i.e. the electrons – in the material when they are illuminated with light.” This will be done with the help of a high-performance ultrashort pulse laser, which records the extremely rapid movements of the electrons in snapshots lasting only a few hundred attoseconds. An attosecond is one quintillionth of a second – the brief moment it takes for light particles to travel the length of a water molecule.
The work of the Jena physicists will initially be “purely basic research”, notes Zürch. “However, in the long term this might enable us to smooth the way towards a targeted application of such composite materials in solar technology and actually move the energy transition forward.”
Dr Michael Zürch
Institute of Optics and Quantum Electronics of Friedrich Schiller University, Jena
Max-Wien-Platz 1, 07743 Jena, Germany
Tel.: +49 (0)3641 / 947213
Dr. Ute Schönfelder | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft
A cavity leads to a strong interaction between light and matter
21.10.2019 | Universität Basel
A new stable form of plutonium discovered at the ESRF
21.10.2019 | European Synchrotron Radiation Facility
A very special kind of light is emitted by tungsten diselenide layers. The reason for this has been unclear. Now an explanation has been found at TU Wien (Vienna)
It is an exotic phenomenon that nobody was able to explain for years: when energy is supplied to a thin layer of the material tungsten diselenide, it begins to...
Researchers at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet (LMU) in Munich have explored the initial consequences of the interaction of light with molecules on the surface of nanoscopic aerosols.
The nanocosmos is constantly in motion. All natural processes are ultimately determined by the interplay between radiation and matter. Light strikes particles...
Particles that are mere nanometers in size are at the forefront of scientific research today. They come in many different shapes: rods, spheres, cubes, vesicles, S-shaped worms and even donut-like rings. What makes them worthy of scientific study is that, being so tiny, they exhibit quantum mechanical properties not possible with larger objects.
Researchers at the Center for Nanoscale Materials (CNM), a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science User Facility located at DOE's Argonne National...
A new research project at the TH Mittelhessen focusses on the development of a novel light weight design concept for leisure boats and yachts. Professor Stephan Marzi from the THM Institute of Mechanics and Materials collaborates with Krake Catamarane, which is a shipyard located in Apolda, Thuringia.
The project is set up in an international cooperation with Professor Anders Biel from Karlstad University in Sweden and the Swedish company Lamera from...
Superconductivity has fascinated scientists for many years since it offers the potential to revolutionize current technologies. Materials only become superconductors - meaning that electrons can travel in them with no resistance - at very low temperatures. These days, this unique zero resistance superconductivity is commonly found in a number of technologies, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
Future technologies, however, will harness the total synchrony of electronic behavior in superconductors - a property called the phase. There is currently a...
02.10.2019 | Event News
02.10.2019 | Event News
19.09.2019 | Event News
21.10.2019 | Materials Sciences
21.10.2019 | Materials Sciences
21.10.2019 | Medical Engineering