About This ProjectImagine that your laptop and phone will have power as long as they are exposed to light. The world’s smallest solar cell might just do the job. Our goal is to design a solar cell based on a single molecule (a single graphene nanoribbon) p-n junction. Utilizing this p-n junction, solar energy can be converted into electricity with high efficiency on a nanotech scale, and this will be a major step towards using solar cells in our everyday devices.
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What is the context of this research?
Many consider solar energy to be the most promising solution to the modern energy crisis. There has been much research done on various types of solar cells, most of which involve using crystalline silicon or inorganic semiconductors. However, these have critical flaws, such as being harmful to the environment and simply being inefficient. There is still a lot of fundamental research to be done to explore new materials for solar cell. Graphene is a newly emerged material with unique properties that will be environment-friendly and has the potential of being highly efficient in solar energy conversion.
What is the significance of this project?
Solar energy is the most accessible source of energy available to us; integrating solar energy into small electrical devices is the next obvious step in modern technology. The current solar cells are simply not environment-friendly or efficient enough to be used in our everyday devices. However, the controllable growth of graphene nanoribbons will give us the advantage of tuning the properties of our solar cells and hence improving its efficiency. Therefore, our graphene nanoribbon solar cells have the advantage of being small, environment-friendly, and highly efficient. With our new nanoscale solar cell, we can revolutionize our dependence on other energy sources and improve our daily lives.
What are the goals of the project?
The ultimate goal of this project is to develop the world’s smallest solar cell, which consists of a single graphene nanoribbon p-n junction. In order to achieve this, we plan to:
1. Study the mechanism of growing graphene nanoribbons on surfaces.
2. Study the optical and electronic properties of graphene nanoribbons.
3. Controlled synthesis of graphene nanoribbon p-n junctions with desired light absorption and energy conversion properties.
4. Make graphene nanoribbon p-n junctions into working solar cells.
We will need money to purchase molecules and metal surfaces, in order to grow graphene nanoribbons. Also, our experiments are done with a low temperature Scanning Tunneling Microscope (STM), which requires liquid helium to maintain the low temperature. Finally we need money to fabricate devices and build our solar cells.
Meet the Team
Team BioProf. Crommie received his Ph.D from UC Berkeley and is a world-renowned expert in scanning tunneling microscope (STM). His interests lie in exploring the local electronic, magnetic, and mechanical properties of atomic and molecular structures at surfaces.
Chen Chen and Zahra Pedramrazi are graduate student researchers in Prof. Commie’s group and they have been working on graphene nanoribbons for the past two years. They will synthesize graphene nanoribbons from molecular precursors and study their optical and electronic properties and eventually find the optimal graphene nanoribbon p-n junctions to make solar cell devices.
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