COLUMBUS, OH - In an article submitted for publishing to the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States (PNAS) by M. H. Chisholm, August 14, 2008 and just published in the October 1, 2008 publication, researchers at Ohio State University used supercomputers to determine the materials needed to construct this groundbreaking material.
The material is comprised of a combination of plastic, molybdenum and titanium. The team discovered it not only fluoresces like most solar cells, but that it also phosphoresces. In a phosphorescent state, electrons can be "siphoned off" as electricity over 7 million times longer than those generated in a fluorescent state. This new material also utilizes the entire visible spectrum of light energy, translating into a theoretical potential of almost 100% efficiency. Commercial products are still years away, but this foundational work may well pave the way for a truly renewable form of clean, global energy.
Traditional solar cell materials utilize fluorescence to gather electricity. Sunlight strikes whatever material they are made of resulting in a momentary "dislodging" of electrons into an excited state (fluorescence), and last only a dozen or so picoseconds (trillionths of a second). This is also called a "singlet state" and is fairly typical among traditional solar cells today.
The new material causes not only fluorescing electrons in the singlet state, but also phosphorescing electrons in what's called a "triplet state." These triplet state electrons remain in their excited state of phosphorescence for scores of microseconds (up to about 200 microseconds, or 0.0002 seconds). This may not sound like much, but in the world of electron capture, this is a long lasting state of free flowing electrons.
So far only a few molecules exist in suspension, and if it can be extrapolated to production capabilities, the potential is huge. Today's best solar collectors use several materials layered to collect from the visible light, infrared and ultroviolet spectrum, and yet achieve 61% max (42-46% more typical) efficiency. They are very expensive and fragile, and reserved for satellites.
Recent plastic solar cells rate at 10-11%, but cost about $3.00/square yard. If this new material could be mass produced, then the death grip on the throat of the world by the oil companies would begin to lessen to the point that the people of the world may breathe freely again (literally and figuritively).