Solar Photochemistry

NREL’s solar photochemistry research focuses on solar photoconversion in molecular, nanoscale, and semiconductor systems to capture, control, and convert high-efficiency solar radiation into electrochemical potential for electricity, chemicals, or fuels.

Main Research Thrusts

Illustrative diagrams of excitons

Organic and Molecular Semiconductors

Acquiring a fundamental understanding of interfacial photoinduced electron transfer processes at molecular, nanoscale, and organic interfaces.


Chart illustration showing the different properties of nanostructures

Quantum-Confined Semiconductors

Seeking to control the optical and electronic properties of quantum-confined semiconductors through doping—coupling of the core electronic structures to surface bound ligands or interactions with plasmotic nanoparticles to direct and transduce energy.


Illustrative image showing photoelectrochemical interfaces

Semiconductor Electrolyte Interfaces

Examining how interfacial chemistry and microenvironments affect the thermodynamics and kinetics of change separation and redox properties at (photo)electrocatalyst-electrolyte interfaces.


Featured Publications

Ternary Sigesn Alloy Nanocrystals Via Nonthermal Plasma Synthesis, Journal of Physics D: Applied Physics (2021)

Carbon Dioxide and Nitrogen Reduction Reactions Using 2d Transition Metal Dichalcogenide (Tmdc) and Carbide/Nitride (Mxene) Catalysts, Energy & Environmental Science (2021)

Exciton–Phonon Coupling and Carrier Relaxation in Pbs Quantum Dots: The Case of Carboxylate Ligands, The Journal of Physical Chemistry C (2021)

Size-Dependent Janus-Ligand Shell Formation on Pbs Quantum Dots, The Journal of Physical Chemistry C (2021)

Pyroelectricity of Lead Sulfide (Pbs) Quantum Dot Films Induced by Janus-Ligand Shells, ACS Nano (2021)

Triplet Excitons in Pentacene Are Intrinsically Difficult to Dissociate via Charge Transfer, Journal of Physical Chemistry C (2021)

Stabilizing the Heavily-Doped and Metallic Phase of MoS2 Monolayers With Surface Functionalization, 2D Materials (2021)

Short and Long-Range Electron Transfer Compete To Determine Free-Charge Yield in Organic Semiconductors, Materials Horizons (2021)

Reconciling the Driving Force and the Barrier to Charge Separation in Donor–Nonfullerene Acceptor Films, ACS Energy Letters (2021)

Interplay Between Microstructure, Defect States, and Mobile Charge Generation in Transition Metal Dichalcogenide Heterojunctions, Nanoscale (2021)

Linking Optical Spectra to Free charges in Donor/Acceptor Heterojunctions: Cross-Correlation of Transient Microwave and Optical Spectroscopy, Materials Horizons (2021)

Mechanisms of Hydrogen Evolution Reaction in Two-Dimensional Nitride MXenes Using In Situ X-Ray Absorption Spectroelectrochemistry, ACS Catalysis (2021)

Suppressing Auger Recombination in Multiply Excited Colloidal Silicon Nanocrystals With Ligand-Induced Hole Traps, The Journal of Physical Chemistry C (2021)

Publications Database

Browse or search all NREL journal articles, conference papers, and reports about solar photochemistry.

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Research Staff

Arthur Nozik – Serving as senior research fellow emeritus

Obadiah Reid – Understanding charge separation and transport in molecular semiconductors, global modeling of photochemical reaction dynamics, development and modeling of quantitative microwave conductivity instrumentation

Andrew Ferguson – Employing spectroscopic techniques to probe photogenerated and chemically injected charge carrier dynamics and transport in polymeric and nanocarbon semiconductor systems

Greg Pach – Studying nonthermal plasma synthesis of novel semiconductor nanomaterials for applications in photovoltaics, photochemical processes, and energy storage

Melissa Gish – Ultrafast spectroscopist studying photoinduced dynamics at semiconductor-molecule interfaces

Taylor Aubry – Fabricating and conducting optoelectronic characterization of hybrid semiconductor materials for energy conversion and storage applications; currently focusing on plasmonic enhancement of 2D transition metal dichalcogenides for photocatalysis

Debjit Ghoshal – Synthesizing and manipulating optoelectronic properties of two-dimensional transition metal dichalcogenides by doping, strain engineering, and coupling with plasmons
Debjit Ghoshal ORCID ID

YunHui (Lisa) Lin – Spectroscopic characterization of energy transfer processes at hybrid organic/inorganic interfaces; materials of interest include metal chalcogenide nanocrystal/organic molecule interfaces and layered 2D hybrid perovskite interfaces
YunHui (Lisa) Lin ORCID ID

Martha Hermosilla Palacios

Marissa Martinez – Using spectroscopic methods to study the structure, electronic, and energetic coupling of carboxylic acid functionalized chromophores on quantum dot thin films

Emily Raulerson – Ultrafast spectroscopist probing the interface between semiconductors and their environment; studying dynamic processes at electrified interfaces
Emily Raulerson ORCID ID

Aaron Rose – Studying nano-optical control of chemical reactions via plasmonics and polariton strong coupling using time-resolved spectroscopic photoelectrochemical techniques

Brandon Rugg – Studying the spin state evolution of triplet exciton pairs generated by singlet fission in crystalline materials using time-resolved optical and magnetic resonance spectroscopy
Brandon Rugg ORCID ID

Simran Saund – Developing hybrid molecular-semiconductor nanocrystal systems for energy-related photoelectrocatalytic small molecule activation
Simran Saund ORCID ID

Logan Wilder – Studying the (photo)electrocatalytic properties of transition metal dichalcogenides; working to improve the efficiency of electrosynthesis methods by controlling the morphology of the electrode/electrolyte interface and by introducing strain, defect sites, or heteroatoms into electrocatalysts
Logan Wilder ORCID ID, Google Scholar

Joshua Carr (CU-Boulder, Materials Science Engineering Program) – Exploring models for charge transfer of singlet excitons generated from sensitized donors in a small molecule accepting host and how solid-state microstructure affects this through ultrafast optical and microwave spectroscopy

Rao Fei (CU-Boulder, Physics) – Studying strong coupling on 2D materials with optical cavities and plasmonic nanocavities and other light-matter interactions on semiconductors with liquid crystals

Ben Feingold – Analyzing ligand exchange solutions that have interfaced with PbS quantum dot-coated substrates
Ben Feingold ORCID ID

Alexis Myers (CU-Boulder, Chemistry) – Studying photoinduced charge transfer dynamics in 2D transition metal dichalcogenides for application in the development of novel transition metal dichalcogenides-based heterostructures

Nicholas Pompetti (CU-Boulder, Chemistry) – Synthesizing and investigating, through time-resolved spectroscopy, the behavior of novel acene derivatives in dye-sensitized solar cell architectures

Leo Romanetz (CU-Boulder, Chemistry) – Studying methods for detection of charge transfer states in donor-acceptor organic semiconductor systems using photoinduced absorption detected magnetic resonance spectroscopy
Leo Romanetz ORCID ID

U.S. Department of Energy Support

This work is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Science, Office of Basic Energy Sciences, Division of Chemical Sciences, Geosciences, and Biosciences, Solar Photochemistry Program.

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