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Inorg Chem. 2005 Oct 3;44(20):6893-9.

Exciton multiplication and relaxation dynamics in quantum dots: applications to ultrahigh-efficiency solar photon conversion.

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  • 1Center for Basic Sciences, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Golden, Colorado 80401, USA.


Huge amounts of carbon-free energy will be required during the coming decades in order to stabilize atmospheric CO2 to acceptable levels. Solar energy is the largest source of non-carbonaceous energy and can be used to produce both electricity and fuel. However, the ratio of the areal cost to the conversion efficiency for devices converting solar photons to electricity or fuel must be reduced by at least 1 order of magnitude from the present values; this requires large increases in the cell efficiency and large reductions in the cost per unit area. We have shown how semiconductor quantum dots may greatly increase photon conversion efficiencies by producing multiple excitons from a single photon. This is possible because quantization of energy levels in quantum dots slows the cooling of hot excitons, promotes multiple exciton generation, and lowers the photon energy threshold for this process. Quantum yields of 300% for exciton formation in PbSe quantum dots have been reported at photon energies 3.8 times the HOMO-LUMO transition energy, indicating the formation of three excitons/photon for all photoexcited quantum dots. Similar high quantum yields have also been reported for PbS quantum dots. A new model for this effect that is based on a coherent superposition of multiple excitonic states has been proposed.

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