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New method for harvesting energy from light

“Harvesting energy from light” has an exotic sci-fi vibe – it’s about better methods for extracting solar energy to generate electricity, and improved fiber optic technology for communications – applications we’re familiar with — this isn’t the Bellero Shield.

The new work centers on plasmonic nanostructures, specifically, materials fabricated from gold particles and light-sensitive molecules of porphyin, of precise sizes and arranged in specific patterns. Plasmons, or a collective oscillation of electrons, can be excited in these systems by optical radiation and induce an electrical current that can move in a pattern determined by the size and layout of the gold particles, as well as the electrical properties of the surrounding environment. Because these materials can enhance the scattering of light, they have the potential to be used to advantage in a range of technological applications, such as increasing absorption in solar cells.

Link to University of Pennsylvania press release.

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