Prof. Stefan Matile & Dr Naomi SakaiPhotosystem energy highways are the next big thing to transform solar light into electricity, thanks to organic chemistry. A perfect tribute to the International Year of Chemistry 2011 proclaimed by the UN.

Sunlight is an inexhaustible energy source. However, only a very small part of it can be captured today to create electricity. When light interacts with matter, electrons are ejected into a level of higher energy. Electrons are subatomic particles with a negative charge; the positively charged void left behind when light ejects an electron is called a hole. To convert light into electrical (photovoltaics) or chemical energy (photosynthesis), the hole and the electron that have been separated with light have to be kept apart. Kept apart long enough until they can be used, because all energy is lost if hole and electron meet each other before use. In current solar energy research, one of the big goals is to learn how to do exactly this, how to keep hole and electron separated long enough so that they can be used.

Report by Edouard Archambault, photography by Christian Rochat

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