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Viruses Build Solar Cell Materials

NSF Award:

BRIGE: An Integrated Research and Education Program for Viral-Templated Type-II Nanostructured Heterojunctions for Photovoltaics  (University of California-Riverside)

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Sunlight is an abundant renewable energy source. Over the years, researchers have tested numerous material combinations in an effort to harness solar energy in a highly efficient, affordable manner. One promising material, copper sulfide, efficiently absorbs sunlight. However, processing this material usually requires expensive high-temperature processing techniques that are detrimental to solar cell performance. 

To overcome this challenge, researchers at the University of California, Riverside, are using viruses to assemble copper sulfide nanomaterials under mild, room-temperature conditions. Viral-templated materials permit changes in solar cell absorption, carrier separation, and carrier collection through precise control of individual building block properties and overall architecture at the nanoscale. 

With this biologically based assembly process, nanoscale semiconductor materials offer new promise for efficient, affordable solar cells. The key is precise manipulation of composition and bottom-up assembly.


  • copper sulfide reacts with a filamentous virus
Copper sulfide on a filamentous virus.
University of California, Riverside

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