Called singlet fission, the process can enable a single photon of light to generate two electrons instead of just one. This one-to-two conversion, as the process is known, has the potential to boost solar cell efficiency by as much as 30 percent above current levels, according to a new review paper published in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters.
Singlet fission "was originally proposed to explain some weird results that were observed in fluorescent organic crystals," said the study's first author Christopher Bardeen, a chemist at the University of California, Riverside. "It received a lot of attention in the 1960s and 1970s, but then it was mostly forgotten."
But beginning around 2006, Bardeen and other scientists exploring new ways to boost the solar-energy conversion rates of photovoltaic panels began taking a renewed interest in singlet fission. In recent years, experiments conducted by Bardeen's group not only helped confirm that the phenomenon is real, but also that it can be highly efficient in a variety of materials.