Quantum mechanics and genetic manipulation paired together to create the genetically engineered virus that could make solar cells better by improving the speed and efficiency of light transportation.
- The researchers drew their inspiration from photosynthesis
- They managed to pair a genetically engineered virus with a synthetic chromophore
- By manipulating them, they were able to artificially duplicate a principle of quantum mechanics
- They essentially created a virus capable of transporting light
Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have made a potential breakthrough that has been attempted by scientists for years. Their inspiration was simply drawn from plants, by observing their near flawless ability to make use of light with no energy wasted.
Through an effect called “Quantum Weirdness”, plants manage to efficiently transport energy absorbed in by the sun without a cost. It implies the ability of a particle to exist in multiple places at the same time. This creates a perfect system, which scientists have attempted to duplicate, due to its incredible efficiency.
Simply put, researchers began with the explanation of photosynthesis. When a photon (a particle of light) hits a receptor, called chromophore, it produces a particle of energy, called an exciton. This exciton essentially then leaps from the original chromophore to all others, until it reaches a reaction center. There, its energy is utilized to support life.
The path of the exciton is one of the most important aspects. In order to reach the reaction center, the distance between each chromophore needs to be at a precise length to allow it to leap from one to another. The exciton takes multiple pathways and chooses the best ones. That is what physicists call the “Quantum Goldilocks Effect”.
This has been the basis of the study conducted by theoretical physicist, Christopher Lloyd, and Angela Belcher, along with 14 other researchers. Belcher has been developing a genetically engineered virus for several years before her research paired with Lloyd’s. The two were able to get the virus to bond with multiple synthetic chromophores.
The scientists produced numerous variants, changing the distances between those synthetic chromophores in order to understand which is the ideal path for the exciton to take. By observing and choosing the ones that proved the best performance, they were able to double the particle’s speed.
The results proved an incredible improvement of efficiency, by 68%, through artificially inducing a principle that was thought as impossible to duplicate a decade ago. Together, the two researchers managed to find a way to clone and improve upon a process that comes naturally to plants with incredible precision.
According to the researchers, their findings could potentially improve development of organic solar cells, biosensors, and organic light-emitting diodes, by artificially finding the best and most capable way to transport light.
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