Photovoltaic concepts inspired by coherence effects in photosynthetic systems


The past decade has seen rapid advances in our understanding of how coherent and vibronic phenomena in biological photosynthetic systems aid in the efficient transport of energy from light-harvesting antennas to photosynthetic reaction centres. Such coherence effects suggest strategies to increase transport lengths even in the presence of structural disorder. Here we explore how these principles could be exploited in making improved solar cells. We investigate in depth the case of organic materials, systems in which energy and charge transport stand to be improved by overcoming challenges that arise from the effects of static and dynamic disorder — structural and energetic — and from inherently strong electron–vibration couplings. We discuss how solar-cell device architectures can evolve to use coherence-exploiting materials, and we speculate as to the prospects for a coherent energy conversion system. We conclude with a survey of the impacts of coherence and bioinspiration on diverse solar-energy harvesting solutions, including artificial photosynthetic systems.

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Figure 1: Coherence as discussed in this work.
Figure 2: Photosynthetic light harvesting compared with OPV.
Figure 3: Coherence in light harvesting.
Figure 4: Random walks and energy migration.
Figure 5: Coherence in charge separation.
Figure 6: Coherent charge separation across an interface.
Figure 7: Coherent vibrational wavepackets.


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We thank the Division of Chemical Sciences, Geosciences, and Biosciences, Office of Basic Energy Sciences of the US Department of Energy for funding through Grant DE-SC0015429 for G.D.S. G.D.S. and E.H.S. acknowledge CIFAR, the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, through its Bio-Inspired Solar Energy programme. J.L.B. acknowledges support by King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), the KAUST Competitive Research Grant program, and the Office of Naval Research Global (Award N62909-15-1-2003).

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Correspondence to Gregory D. Scholes.

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Brédas, JL., Sargent, E. & Scholes, G. Photovoltaic concepts inspired by coherence effects in photosynthetic systems. Nature Mater 16, 35–44 (2017).

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