A team of American researchers have engineered new types of particles called topological plexcitons, which could help pave the way for more efficient energy transfers in solar cells and other forms of photonic circuits.
The researchers have managed to improve on a process known as exciton energy transfer (EET), which describes the way light and matter exchange energy when they meet. On its own, EET is only possible over very short distances – about one hundred millionth of a metre. But one way to extend this is by creating plexcitons, where excitons in a molecular crystal are combined with plasmons – the energy created from light interacting with metal.
That increases the range of EET to about the width of a human hair, but the energy flow is very difficult to harness, which is where this new research comes in.
Physicists from the UC San Diego, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard University have used materials called topological insulators to act as conductors for EET, forcing the plexcitons to move in one direction, and that means scientists can control the flow of light energy at an incredibly small scale.
One of the applications of the research is that it should enable engineers to create plexcitonic switches that can distribute energy selectively across solar panels or other kinds of light-harvesting devices.
The research is published in Nature Communications.
Source: Science Alert