Charged Up: Scientists Find New Pathway to Harnessing the Sun for a Clean Energy Future


Berkeley Lab co-led collaboration with DESY and TU Freiberg brings us a step closer to more efficient photovoltaics and solar fuel systems.

In the past 50 years, scientists have made great advances in photovoltaic technologies that convert sunlight into electricity, and artificial photosynthesis devices that convert sunlight and water into carbon-free fuels. But the current state-of-the-art of these clean energy sources still lack the efficiency to compete with electricity or transportation fuel derived from petroleum.

Now, scientists at Berkeley Lab, DESY, the European XFEL, and the Technical University Freiberg, Germany, have reported in Nature Communications their discovery of a hidden charge-generating pathway that could help researchers develop more efficient ways to convert sunlight into electricity or solar fuels like hydrogen.

With help from DESY’s free-electron laser FLASH, the researchers shone ultrashort infrared and X-ray laser flashes on a copper-phthalocyanine:fullerene (CuPc:C60) material to study the charge generation mechanisms with a time resolution of 290 femtoseconds (290 quadrillionths of a second).

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