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Thursday, April 18, 2013
Report: Researchers discover solar cell with over 100% efficiency
A paper published today in Science reports the discovery of an organic solar cell with over 100% efficiency, by utilizing a quantum process called "singlet fission."
Solar cell efficiency is limited because light at wavelengths shorter than the cell's absorption threshold does not channel any of its excess energy into the generated electricity. Congreve et al. (p. 334) have developed a method to harvest the excess energy in carbon-based absorbers through a process termed “singlet fission.” In this process, high-energy photons propel two current carriers, rather than just one, by populating a singlet state that spontaneously divides into a pair of triplet states. Although it works in a functioning organic solar cell, the efficiency needs improving.
Science 19 April 2013:
Vol. 340 no. 6130 pp. 334-337 DOI: 10.1126/science.1232994
Singlet exciton fission transforms a molecular singlet excited state into two triplet states, each with half the energy of the original singlet. In solar cells, it could potentially double the photocurrent from high-energy photons. We demonstrate organic solar cells that exploit singlet exciton fission in pentacene to generate more than one electron per incident photon in a portion of the visible spectrum. Using a fullerene acceptor, a poly(3-hexylthiophene) exciton confinement layer, and a conventional optical trapping scheme, we show a peak external quantum efficiency of (109 ± 1)% at wavelength λ = 670 nanometers for a 15-nanometer-thick pentacene film. The corresponding internal quantum efficiency is (160 ± 10)%. Analysis of the magnetic field effect on photocurrent suggests that the triplet yield approaches 200% for pentacene films thicker than 5 nanometers.