December 15, 2008

Leaf-shaped material harvests more light

Form titanium dioxide into the exact structure of a leaf and you can make the semiconductor absorb more visible light than its bulk form. This could boost solar cells and water-splitting hydrogen generators.

The process replaces a leaf's biological material with titanium dioxide, retaining the structure of the leaf down to the nanoscale. Think fossilization rather than gilding a lily.

Titanium dioxide is inexpensive but it mostly absorbs ultraviolet light, and ultraviolet light is only a small portion of the solar spectrum. The leaf shaping more than doubles the amount of visible light the material absorbs.

Titanium dioxide is used in dye sensitized solar cells and as a photocatalyst for extracting hydrogen from water using sunlight.

Research paper:
Enhanced Light-Harvesting and Photocatalytic Properties in Morph-TiO2 from Green-Leaf Biotemplates
Advanced Functional Materials, published online December 12, 2008

Researchers' homepage:
State Key Lab of Metal Matrix Composite

Related stories and briefs:
Nanotubes crank out hydrogen -- related research

Back to ERN December 15/22, 2008



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