I have to confess that the title of this paper, The remarkable influence of M2δ to thienyl π conjugation in oligothiophenes incorporating MM quadruple bonds, is Greek to me, that the abstract was impenetrable, and the paper itself was thoroughly incomprehensible. I’m a biologist, not a chemist or materials engineer! Fortunately, there are a couple of summaries that simplify the explanation enough that I can understand the gist of it, and it’s cool stuff. Researchers have made a new material that promises to greatly increase the efficiency of solar cells. It works by collecting photons over a wider spectrum of wavelengths and by using both fluorescence and phosphorescence to create an electron flow, allowing it to both collect more energy per unit area and facilitating the production of current.
This is promising news, and also illustrates why we need to fund basic research — these are the kinds of discoveries that can’t be simply planned and forced into existence, but require the liberty of the research enterprise to explore new ideas freely.
Don’t get too excited just yet, though. The research has uncovered useful properties of a combination of molecules that have only been tested in minute quantities. It remains to be seen if it can be scaled up efficiently, if it can be made cost-effective, and whether it can be simply made to work at a practical level. It’s still an exciting idea — they’re talking about nearly 100% efficiency.