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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

Excitons to Charge Carriers in Molecular and Nanoscale Systems

Understanding the photophysics of singlet and triplet excitons in organic molecular and nanoscale systems in the condensed phase and the factors that control the processes of charge generation, transport, and recombination

Chart illustration showing the different properties of nanostructures

Quantum-Confined Semiconductors

Developing control of the optical and electrical properties of quantum-confined semiconductors and small metallic nanostructures through doping and coupling to surface-bound ligands to direct and transduce energy

Illustrative image showing photoelectrochemical interfaces

Photoelectrochemical Approach to Solar Fuels

Exploring how molecular and inorganic layers affect the thermodynamics and kinetics of charge separation and redox chemistry at semiconductor (photo)electrocatalyst-electrolyte interfaces through new spectroscopic techniques

Featured Publications

Research Staff

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

Bryon Larson

Sanjini Nanayakkara – Synthesis and characterization of novel materials for applications in solar cells, photochemical processes and neuromorphic computing

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

Kira Thurman

Taylor Aubry – Fabrication and optoelectronic characterization of hybrid semiconductor materials for energy conversion and storage applications; current focus on plasmonic enhancement of 2D transition metal dichalcogenides (TMDCs) for photocatalysis

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

Taylor Allen – Understanding charge separation and transport in molecular, polymer, and 2D semiconductors and how it relates to solid-state microstructure using ultrafast optical and microwave spectroscopy

Nuwan Attanayake – Tuning 2D TMDCs for (photo)electrochemical fuel generating reactions (particularly ammonia generation) and studying heterostructures of TMDCs on gallium arsenide semiconductors to improve the lifetime of the semiconductor under reaction conditions

Melissa Gish – Ultrafast spectroscopist studying photoinduced dynamics at semiconductor-molecule interfaces with a focus on singlet-fission materials

Abdul Djire

Hanyu Zhang

Xihan Chen

Zhaodong Li – Studying the novel 2D TMDC growth by chemical vapor deposition and photo-induced charge transfer dynamics and applications of 2D-TMDCs/single wall carbon nanotube heterostructures

Dana Kern

Albert Kang

Zhiyuan Huang –Preparation and characterization of semiconductor quantum dot films for photovoltaic applications by electronic doping, surface ligand tuning, and quantum dot self assembling

Charles Nwamba

Ryan Pekarek

Marissa Martinez (CU-Boulder, Chemistry) – Tuning the optical properties and energy transfer in quantum dot solutions and solids with ligand exchange and studying novel low-dimensional semiconductors for carrier multiplication

Rachel Vanosdol (CU-Boulder, Chemistry) – Studying charge transfer from singlet-fission born triplet excitons using steady-state and time-resolved microwave conductivity measurements and simulations

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

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

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

Rao Fei (CU-Boulder, Physics)

Max O’Connor (CU-Boulder, Chemistry)

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.


Garry Rumbles

Research Fellow