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First Ab Initio Method for Characterizing Hot Carriers Could Hold the Key to Future Solar Cell Efficiencies

A new and better way to study “hot” carriers in semiconductors, a major source of efficiency loss in solar cells, has been developed by scientists at Berkeley Lab. (Photo by Roy Kaltschmidt)

Berkeley Lab researchers have developed the first ab initio method for characterizing the properties of “hot carriers” in semiconductors. This should help clear a major road block to the development of new, more efficient solar cells.

Postcards from the Photosynthetic Edge

Photosytem II utilizes a water-splitting manganese-calcium enzyme that when energized by sunlight catalyzes a four photon-step cycle of oxidation states that ultimately yields molecular oxygen.

Using the world’s most powerful x-ray laser, an international collaboration led by Berkeley Lab researchers took femtosecond “snapshots” of water oxidation in photosystem II, the only known biological system able to harness sunlight for splitting the water molecule. The results should help advance the development of artificial photosynthesis for clean, green and renewable energy.

Dynamic Spectroscopy Duo

2D-EV spectral data tells researchers how photoexcitation of a molecular system affects the coupling of electronic and vibrational degrees of freedom that is essential to understanding how all molecules, molecular systems and nanomaterials function.

Berkeley Lab researchers have developed a new technique called two-dimensional electronic-vibrational spectroscopy that can be used to study the interplay between electrons and atomic nuclei during a photochemical reaction. Photochemical reactions are critical to a wide range of natural and technological phenomena, including photosynthesis, vision, nanomaterials and solar energy.

Installed Price of Solar Photovoltaic Systems in the U.S. Continues to Decline at a Rapid Pace

The installed price of solar photovoltaic (PV) power systems in the United States fell substantially in 2012 and through the first half of 2013, according to the latest edition of Tracking the Sun, an annual PV cost tracking report produced by Berkeley Lab.

Artificial Forest for Solar Water-Splitting

Berkeley Lab researchers have created the first fully integrated artificial photosynthesis nanosystem. While “artificial leaf” is the popular term for such a system, the key to this success was an “artificial forest.”

Good Cats Wear Black: Black Nanoparticles Could Play Key Role in Clean Energy Photocatalysis

Disorder engineering turns low-efficiency photocatalytic “white” nanoparticles of titanium dioxide into high-efficiency “black” nanoparticles and could be a key to hydrogen energy.

One Step Closer to Hydrogen Production from Photoelectrochemical Water-Splitting

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In the quest to produce an environmentally benign renewable fuel, scientists have explored many techniques to split water molecules to produce hydrogen. Still, the current photovoltaic designs are not yet technically or economically viable. Materials research in this area has been promising, but research on the engineering design of these photoelectrochemical systems has been sparse.

New Path to More Efficient Organic Solar Cells Uncovered at Berkeley Lab’s Advanced Light Source

Molecular view of polymer/fullerene solar film showing an interface between acceptor and donor domains. Red dots are PC71BM molecules and blue lines represent PTB7 chains. Excitons are shown as yellow dots, purple dots are electrons and green dots represent holes.

Working at Berkeley Lab’s Advanced Light Source (ALS), an international team of scientists found that for highly efficient polymer/organic solar cells, size matters. Impure domains if made sufficiently small can lead to improved performances in polymer-based organic photovoltaics.

The Installed Price of Solar Photovoltaic Systems in the U.S. Continues to Decline at a Rapid Pace

solar photo

The installed price of solar photovoltaic (PV) power systems in the United States fell substantially in 2011 and through the first half of 2012, according to the latest edition of Tracking the Sun, an annual PV cost-tracking report produced by Berkeley Lab’s Environmental Energy Technologies Division. Recent installed price reductions are attributable, in large part, to dramatic reductions in PV module prices, which have been falling precipitously since 2008.

Berkeley Lab Breaks Ground on New Solar Energy Research Facility

An illustration of Berkeley Lab's Solar Energy Research Center (SERC).

Berkeley Lab has broken ground on its Solar Energy Research Center (SERC). The three-story structure will be nearly 40,000 sq. ft. in size and will house approximately 75 people when completed. SERC will hold the labs and offices of the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis whose goal is to one day develop a solar fuel generator.