Articles, Blog

The future of efficient solar energy

December 3, 2019


My name is Adolfo De Sanctis, I’m a Research
Fellow at the University of Exeter and I work on the electronic and opto-electronic properties
of two-dimensional materials. As often happens in science, discoveries are
made by serendipity where we start looking for something and end up looking for something
else. That’s exactly what happened to me: I was looking to measure some properties of
a material and I ended up actually discovering a new phenomenon that nobody had observed
before. I worked with four other people, and in particular with my line manager and supervisor
Professor Saverio Russo. I lead a team of Early Career Researchers working at the forefront of quantum mechanical aspects of emerging atomically-thin materials. Our group is based
in physics but our activity is truly interdisciplinary, reaching out in areas that are close to engineering,
chemistry and materials science as well. The work we are doing with Adolfo aims to improve
the efficiency of solar cells If we take a
material and a semiconductor and we pull it If we take a
material and a semiconductor and we pull it – literally we stretch it – its electronic
properties change. They change in such a way that the electrons behave differently because
they fill a different ‘energy gap,’ as we call it in semiconductor physics. Now, very
interesting things can happen at this point, and one of them is related to my discovery
which is called ‘charge funnelling’. Currently solar energy harvesting works this way: we
have the energy coming from the sun, which is represented by this red water, and we are
trying to fill up our battery by pouring it directly into it. Everything spills out and
not much is collected in the battery. What fill it in a much faster way, obtaining a
much higher efficiency. fill it in a much faster way, obtaining a
much higher efficiency. This discovery is very important because it demonstrates for the first time that we can use two-dimensional materials to make novel devices that have never been thought of before. In 2012 our group became known for the discovery of what we called ‘GraphExeter’ – that is an augmented form of graphene. Graphene is an atomically-thin
layer of carbon atoms. We dressed up the surface of this single layer of carbon atoms with
molecules of ferric chloride and obtained a material that is now known as the best transparent
conductor of electricity. These materials are only a few atoms thick and no other material
that we use nowadays in technology such as solar cells can actually do what they do,
because they will break. However, these materials can be stretched up to 25 percent, and that’s
what makes it possible. So not only is it a demonstration of an important phenomenon,
but it’s also a demonstration that the only materials that can do this are the materials
I’ve been working with in the past 4 years. The ability of these materials to stretch
and strain so much opens new possibilities: for example, computer CPUs that don’t heat
up, or high-performance cameras and other and also improve the efficiency of detectors. This discovery is very important because it demonstrates for the first time that we can use two-dimensional materials to make novel devices that have never been thought of before. In 2012 our group became known for the discovery of what we called ‘GraphExeter’ – that is an augmented

You Might Also Like

No Comments

Leave a Reply