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

Photo and Electrochemical Redox Systems

Seeking to understand how chemical and physical structure affects the thermodynamics and kinetics of charge separation and redox chemistry in photo(electro)chemical systems.

Featured Publications

Covalent Functionalization of Nickel Phosphide Nanocrystals with Aryl-Diazonium Salts, Chemistry of Materials (2021)

Competing Singlet Fission and Excimer Formation in Solid Fluorinated 1,3-Diphenylisobenzofurans, The Journal of Physical Chemistry C (2021)

Controlled N-Doping of Naphthalene-Diimide-Based 2d Polymers, Advanced Materials (2021)

Probing Activities of Individual Catalytic Nanoflakes by Tunneling Mode of Scanning Electrochemical Microscopy, The Journal of Physical Chemistry C (2021)

Interlayer Triplet-Sensitized Luminescence in Layered Two-Dimensional Hybrid Metal-Halide Perovskites, ACS Energy Letters (2021)

Atomlike Interaction and Optically Tunable Giant Band-Gap Renormalization in Large-Area Atomically Thin Mos2, Physical Review B (2021)

Evaluation of Nanostructured Β-Mn2v2o7 Thin Films as Photoanodes for Photoelectrochemical Water Oxidation, Chemistry of Materials (2021)

Exogenous Electricity Flowing through Cyanobacterial Photosystem I Drives Co2 Valorization with High Energy Efficiency, Energy & Environmental Science (2021)

Influence of Ligand Structure on Excited State Surface Chemistry of Lead Sulfide Quantum Dots, Journal of the American Chemical Society (2021)

In Situ Synthesis of Molybdenum Carbide Nanoparticles Incorporated into Laser-Patterned Nitrogen-Doped Carbon for Room Temperature Voc Sensing, Advanced Functional Materials (2021)

Solution-Phase P-Type Doping of Highly Enriched Semiconducting Single-Walled Carbon Nanotubes for Thermoelectric Thin Films, Applied Physics Letters (2021)

Enhancing Interfacial Charge Transfer in a Wo3/Bivo4 Photoanode Heterojunction through Gallium and Tungsten Co-Doping and a Sulfur Modified Bi2o3 Interfacial Layer, Journal of Materials Chemistry A (2021)

Resolving Electron Injection from Singlet Fission-Borne Triplets into Mesoporous Transparent Conducting Oxides, Chemical Science (2021)

Open Questions on the Photophysics of Ultrafast Singlet Fission, Communications Chemistry (2021)

Interlayer Triplet Energy Transfer in Dion–Jacobson Two-Dimensional Lead Halide Perovskites Containing Naphthalene Diammonium Cations, The Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters (2021)

Polyvinyl Acetate-Based Polymer Host for Optical and Far-Infrared Spectroscopy of Individualized Nanoparticles, Journal of Applied Physics (2021)

Hydrogen Bonding Optimizes Singlet Fission in Carboxylic Acid Functionalized Anthradithiophene Films, ChemPhotoChem (2021)

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)

Using Carbon Laser Patterning to Produce Flexible, Metal-Free Humidity Sensors, ACS Applied Electronic Materials (2020)

Nanotechnology for Catalysis and Solar Energy Conversion, Nanotechnology (2020)

Spatially Resolved Persistent Photoconductivity in Mos2–Ws2 Lateral Heterostructures, ACS Nano (2020)

Reversible Multicolor Chromism in Layered Formamidinium Metal Halide Perovskites, Nature Communications (2020)

Size- and Temperature-Dependent Suppression of Phonon Thermal Conductivity in Carbon Nanotube Thermoelectric Films, Advanced Electronic Materials (2020)

Strategic Design of Moo2 Nanoparticles Supported by Carbon Nanowires for Enhanced Electrocatalytic Nitrogen Reduction, ACS Energy Letters (2020)

Transient Evolution of the Built-in Field at Junctions of Gaas, ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces (2020)

Monitoring Local Electric Fields Using Stark Shifts on Napthyl Nitrile-Functionalized Silicon Photoelectrodes, The Journal of Physical Chemistry C (2020)

Applying Dynamic Strain on Thin Oxide Films Immobilized on a Pseudoelastic Nickel-Titanium Alloy, JoVE (Journal of Visualized Experiments) (2020)

Improving Efficiency and Stability of Perovskite Solar Cells Enabled by a near-Infrared-Absorbing Moisture Barrier, Joule (2020)

Photoinduced Charge Transfer in Transition Metal Dichalcogenide Heterojunctions – Towards Next Generation Energy Technologies, Energy & Environmental Science (2020)

Progress and Prospective of Nitrogen-Based Alternative Fuels, Chemical Reviews (2020)

Conversion Between Triplet Pair States Is Controlled by Molecular Coupling in Pentadithiophene Thin Films, Chemical Science (2020)

Bodipy Based a-D-a Molecules: Effect of Cf3 Group Substitution at Meso Phenyl Group, Dyes and Pigments (2020)

Plasmon-Mediated Coherent Superposition of Discrete Excitons under Strong Exciton–Plasmon Coupling in Few-Layer Mos2 at Room Temperature, ACS Photonics (2020)

Dynamic Ligand Surface Chemistry of Excited Pbs Quantum Dots, The Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters (2020)

Transforming Energy Using Quantum Dots, Energy & Environmental Science (2020)

Energetic Tug-of-War between Pt and Leaky Tio2: Positive and Negative Effects on the Function of Molecularly-Modified P-Si(111)|Tio2|Pt Photocathodes, ChemElectroChem (2020)

Control of Quantum Dot Emission by Colloidal Plasmonic Pyramids in a Liquid Crystal, Optics Express (2020)

Interference Provides Clarity: Direct Observation of 2d Materials at Fluid–Fluid Interfaces, ACS Nano (2020)

Lessons from Intramolecular Singlet Fission with Covalently Bound Chromophores, The Journal of Chemical Physics (2020)

Electronic States of 2,3-Diamino-1,4-Naphthoquinone and Its N-Alkylated Derivatives, The Journal of Physical Chemistry C (2020)

Practical Challenges in the Development of Photoelectrochemical Solar Fuels Production, Sustainable Energy & Fuels (2020)

Cation-Exchange Synthesis of Highly Monodisperse Pbs Quantum Dots from Zns Nanorods for Efficient Infrared Solar Cells, Advanced Functional Materials (2020)

Modulating Donor–Acceptor Transition Energies in Phosphorus–Boron Co-Doped Silicon Nanocrystals via X- and L-type Ligands, Faraday Discussions (2020)

Basal Plane Hydrogen Evolution Activity from Mixed Metal Nitride MXenes Measured by Scanning Electrochemical Microscopy, Adv. Funct. Mater. (2020)

Decoupling Kinetics and Thermodynamics of Interfacial Catalysis at a Chemically Modified Black Silicon Semiconductor Photoelectrode, ACS Energy Lett. (2020)

Measuring Photoexcited Free Charge Carriers in Mono- to Few-Layer Transition-Metal Dichalcogenides with Steady-State Microwave Conductivity, Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters (2020)

Spatial Separation of Triplet Excitons Drives Endothermic Singlet Fission, Nature Chemistry (2020)

Disentangling Oxygen and Water Vapor Effects on Optoelectronic Properties of Monolayer Tungsten Disulfide, Nanoscale (2020)

Hot-Carrier Transfer at Photocatalytic Silicon/Platinum Interfaces, J. Chem. Phys (2020)

Plasmonic Hot Hole Transfer in Gold Nanoparticle-Decorated Transition Metal Dichalcogenide Nanosheets, ACS Photonics (2020)

Publications Database

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

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

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

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

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

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.


Jeffrey Blackburn

Group Research Manager III, Materials Science