Nature-mimicking solar cells: new advances at the University of Trieste
Mimicking processes that occur in nature are studied in order to synthetize new materials to use as cathalysts, solar cells or electronic memories at the University of Trieste, where Erik Vesselli from the Department of Physics has coordinated an important study that involved the researchers of the Vienna University of Technology and the Institute of Materials of the National Research Council (IOM-CNR).
The study, published in Nature Communications, resulted in the development of a bidimensional matrix of individual atoms of iron, only 1.5 billionth of metre one from the other, from a sheet of graphene covered with a layer of organic molecules. The whole structure was developed by “mimicking” the molecule of hemoglobin responsible for transporting oxygen inside red blood cells.
By studying the new structure, the researchers observed that the visible light of a green laser could be used to write an information (bit) on the centres containing the individual atoms of iron. The researchers have also demonstrated that this structure can double the efficiency as compared to current solar cells.
The project is part of a line of research started by the University of Trieste with the setting up of an innovative system for non-linear laser spectroscopy, for which Erik Vesselli has obtained a grant from MIUR-Ministry of Education, University and Research under the Futuro in Ricerca programme.
The current studies focus on the use of nano-engineered materials in strategic fields including electronics and energy, or the reduction and conversion of environmental pollutants such as carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and nitrogen monoxide.