(Photo/University BC Okanagan)

(Photo/University BC Okanagan)

UBCO researcher studying solar energy conversion tech

Results may lead to quicker development of more effective products

A University of B.C. Okanagan (UBCO) researcher is studying how different solar energy conversion technologies work to determine the most efficient.

Dr. Robert Godin conducts research examining the effectiveness of different green energy-producing technologies, such as solar panels and photosynthesis. A news release from UBCO states that a new study led by Dr. Godin, an assistant professor of chemistry based in the Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science, takes a closer look at existing solar energy technologies to determine which properties are useful indicators in determining the performance of various materials.

“Part of the challenge with this type of research is the way different solar energy conversion technologies work, each is completely distinct,” explained Dr. Godin. “It’s not obvious how, or even if, you can compare photovoltaics, which generate electricity, to photocatalysts, which generate high energy chemical fuels such as hydrogen.”

The team examine a range of conversion devices to determine how long in a device’s lifetime the excited state generated by light irradiation stuck around, and how long it took to complete the energy conversion process. The team compared that ratio to the energy lost to make it happen.

“We were able to establish a clear link between these values, and that wasn’t something we were expecting going into the study,” added Dr. Godin. “This link between the ratio of lifetimes and energetic losses was found across all the different types of solar energy conversion devices we looked at, even machinery in natural photosynthesis systems.”

These findings may speed up the development of better solar energy conversion technologies, added Dr. Godin.

“Being able to tell early on whether a new material has the potential to surpass current technology will greatly speed up the ability to move the best technologies into the marketplace. As conversion technologies like solar panels become more mainstream, the less society will need to rely on the production of environmentally devastating fossil fuels.”

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