Team combines quantum physics and photosynthesis to make discovery that could lead to highly efficient solar cells

Nathan Gabor, an associate professor at the University of California, Riverside, is working on a way to combine photosynthesis and physics to make solar power generation better.

Gabor’s work focuses on the use of light to test the laws of quantum mechanics but he was led to photosynthesis when he wondered why plants are green. He also observed that plants have naturally evolved to efficiently make use of solar energy and wondered if there was a way to replicate this. Current solar cells are about 20% efficient.

Gabor and a team of other UC Riverside physicists are trying to make solar power more efficient with the development of a quantum heat engine photocell, which helps manipulate the flow of energy in solar cells and better cope with the fluctuating amount of energy which reaches a solar panel.

The team found that the absorption of two colours of light helped to provide the kind of stabilisation they needed, but that green light did not help. The absorption spectrum which worked best looks remarkably similar to that which works for photosynthesis in plants.