Science and Engineering

University of Delaware

Matthew Doty, Joshua Zide, Diane Sellers, Chris Kloxin, John Slater, Emily Day
Newark, DE
$1,000,000
June 2015

Photon upconversion is a process through which two or more low-energy (long wavelength) photons are converted into one high-energy (short wavelength) photon.  Efficient photon upconversion could dramatically improve performance in a wide range of technologies including solar energy harvesting, energy-efficient lighting and displays, and biomedical diagnostics and therapeutics.  Existing upconversion materials have poor efficiency and generate a large amount of waste heat.  Our new paradigm for photon upconversion overcomes these limits by engineering semiconductor nanostructures to make a small sacrifice of energy after each photon absorption step (the “photon ratchet”).  This controlled energy sacrifice dramatically improves upconversion efficiency and minimizes the loss of energy to heat.  This project supports growth, characterization and optimization of the new photon upconversion nanostructures and generation of proof-of-concept data for two applications.  We will first demonstrate that our new approach provides a path to high-efficiency photovoltaics at reduced cost.  We will then demonstrate that our paradigm also allows us to overcome present limitations to gene therapy by enabling optically-triggered in vivo release of genetic payloads from functionalized, efficient upconversion nanoparticles.

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