Super-low loss quantum energy transport could revolutionize sunlight to energy conversion
The useof sunlight as an energy source is achieved in a number of ways, fromconversion to electricity via photovoltaic (PV) panels, concentrated heat todrive steam turbines, and even hydrogen generation via artificial photosynthesis.Unfortunately, much of the light energy in PV and photosynthesis systems is lost as heat due to the thermodynamic inefficiencies inherent in the process ofconverting the incoming energy from one form to another. Now scientists workingat the University of Bayreuth claim to have created a super-efficient light-energytransport conduit that exhibits almost zero loss, and showspromise as the missing link in the sunlight to energy conversion process.
Usingspecifically-generated nanofibers at its core, this is reported to be the very first time adirected energy transport system has been exhibited that effectively moves intactlight energy over a distance of several micrometers, and at room temperature. And, according tothe researchers, the transference of energy from block to block in the nanofibers is onlyadequately explained at the quantum level with coherence effects drivingthe energy along the individual fibers.
Quantum coherenceis the phenomenon where subatomic waves are closely interlinked via sharedelectromagnetic fields. As they travel in phase together, these quantumcoherent waves start to act as one very large synchronous wave propagatingacross a medium. In the case of the University of Bayreuth device, thesecoherent waves of energy travel across the molecular building blocks from whichthe nanofibers are made, passing from block to block and moving as onecontinuous energy wave would in unbound free space.
It isthis effect that the scientists say is driving the super-low energy losscapabilities of their device, and have confirmed this observation using avariety of microscopy techniques to visualize the conveyance of excitationenergy along the nanofibers.
Thenanofibers themselves are specifically-prepared supramolecular strands, manufacturedfrom a chemically bespoke combination of carbonyl-bridged (molecularly connected) triarylamine (an organic compound) combinedwith three naphthalimide bithiophene chromophores (copolymer molecules thatabsorb and reflect specific wavelengths of light). When brought together underparticular conditions, these elements spontaneously self-assemble into 4micrometer long, 0.005 micrometer diameter nanofibers made up of more than10,000 identical chemical building blocks.
"These highly promising nanostructuresdemonstrate that carefully tailoring materials for the efficient transport oflight energy is an emerging research area," said Dr. Richard Hildner, anexperimental physicist at the University of Bayreuth.
The results of this research were recently published in the journal Nature.
Source: University of Bayreuth