Researchers at the University of Delaware have been awarded a $1 million grant from the W.M. Keck Foundation. The team of researchers will attempt to develop a method of converting lower energy red light to higher energy blue light using nanostructured compound semiconductors. The technology could potentially help improve the efficiency of solar cells.
Mathew Doty, an associate professor of materials science and engineering and associate director of UD’s Nanofabrication Facility will lead the project.
Low-energy red light can not be transformed to higher energy blue light with conventional optics. Doty noted that a photon of red light has less energy than a photon of blue light, and you can’t simply turn a red photon into a blue one. However, he said that could combine the energy of two or more red photons to make one blue photon.
The project will involve developing a nanostructured material that can control the flow of electrons into states with varying levels of potential energy. The right structure with multiple layers of various materials will essentially use the energy from red photons to excite a specially structured material that will produce blue light.
The team plans to use molecular beam epitaxy to fabricate the structures. Each structure will be tested to improve performance.
Doty speculates that such technology could help make solar cells up to 25-30 percent more efficient by reducing the wasted part of the light spectrum. The researchers envision eventually developing a material that can be made into a paint and can be painted onto solar cells.
“This is high-risk, high-reward research,” Doty commented. “High-risk because we don’t yet have proof-of-concept data. High-reward because it has such a huge potential impact in renewable energy to medicine …. This same technology could be used to harvest more solar energy and to treat cancer.”