Awardee: Stanford University
Location: Stanford, CA
Subprogram: Photovoltaics
Funding ProgramNext Generation 2
Principal Investigator: Jennifer Dionne

Upconversion of sub-bandgap photons is a promising approach to exceed the Shockley-Queisser limit in solar technologies. However, due to the low quantum efficiencies and narrow absorption bandwidths of upconverters, existing systems have only led to fractional percent improvements in photovoltaic devices (~0.01%). In this project, we aimed to develop an efficient upconverting material that could improve cell efficiencies by at least one absolute percent. To achieve this goal, we first used thermodynamic calculations to determine cell efficiencies with realistic upconverting materials. Then, we designed, synthesized, and characterized nanoantennas that promise >100x enhancement in both the upconverter absorption cross-section and emissive radiative rate. Concurrently, we optimized the upconverer by designing new ionic and molecular complexes that promise efficient solid-state upconversion. Lastly, with Bosch, we simulated record-efficiency semi-transparent cells that will allow for ready incorporation of our upconverting materials. 

While we were not successful in designing record efficiency upconverters during our three years of funding, we gained significant insight into the existing limitations of upconverters and how to best address these challenges. Ongoing work is aimed at addressing these limitations, to make upconversion a cost-competitive solar technology in future years.