Discovery optimises electron transfer in solar fuel devices

Wednesday, 22 June, 2016

Researchers have discovered a way to optimise the flow of electrons in solar fuel devices, a finding that could have a big impact on devices that convert sunlight into electricity and fuel. The discovery pertains specifically to electron transfer in semiconductors used in solar fuel devices.

Researchers have already shown that the efficiency of electron transfer at semiconductor interfaces depends on the distance the electron has to travel. The new finding shows that the efficiency of the transfer also depends on the type of chemical bonds — or the bridge — that the electron travels through along the way.

“Now we can design molecules to act as a gate and keep electrons moving forward in one direction and not reverse their direction,” said University of British Columbia chemist and chemical engineer Curtis Berlinguette, senior author on the paper. 

“If electrons go in the wrong direction, we lose much of the Sun’s energy as heat before it can be converted into electricity or fuel.”

The discovery has been published in Nature Chemistry.

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