Tiny Tech #14: Luminescent Nanomaterials

Today from the world of Tiny Tech:

Feeling energetic?  Well, sometimes molecules end up with excess energy too.  This can happen in several ways, such as when molecules absorb light, are subjected to an electrical current, or undergo a chemical reaction.  Molecules sometimes release their extra energy by emitting light, in a process called luminescence.  If on a dark night, you’ve seen a glow-in-the-dark sticker or the signal of a firefly, then you have witnessed the phenomenon of luminescence. 

Many nano-sized objects are also luminescent. Especially interesting for solar energy applications are certain nanomaterials that luminesce by absorbing infrared light and re-emitting it as visible light.  Importantly, such materials have been shown to increase the efficiencies of solar cells.  The reason is that solar cells can’t absorb infrared light because it is too low in energy; the luminescent nanomaterials turn the infrared light into visible light, which the cells CAN absorb.  Although scientists are still learning how to make nanoparticles that turn more of the infrared light into visible light, the approach looks very promising.

So it might not be too long before luminescent nanomaterials -- see the light of day. 

Tiny Tech is made possible by the National Science Foundation and WUFT.  To learn more about Tiny Tech, go to tinytechradio.org.

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