Converting Photons for Solar Power - a moonshot project
Tom Spendlove posted on August 21, 2013 |

Jennifer Dionne begins with a statistic: the sun provides more energy in one hour than the world consumes in an entire year.

Her goal is to use as much of that energy as possible. Current solar cells can only absorb 30-50% of the sun's energy.

Upconversion is a process of combining photons to get a higher energy photon that will be reabsorbed by the solar cell. This process could allow 70-100% of the sun's energy to be absorbed by the cells.

The process uses solution treated material, combining earth abundant systems with metallic nano-particles to control the photon to molecule interactions. The product can then be spin coated or spray cast onto the back of the solar cells.

Traditional upconversion that has been done in the telecommunication field has always needed prohibitively high powered lasers.  Jennifer has developed efficiency gains such that the process can now use low power laser sources.

Future challenges involve increasing the bandwidth of upconverter absorbption to more efficiently absorb mid-infrared photons.

This brief talk is part of the MIT Technology Review Innovators Under 35, where Jennifer was a winner in 2011.  This year Dionne attended the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting on Chemistry, delivered the first Leonardo Art / Science (LASER) talk at Berkeley, and was featured on the front page of reddit.

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