Self-Assembled Nanoelectronic Devices for Solar Energy Applications

Challenge: While solar radiation is an abundant energy source current methods for its capture and use suffer from low efficiencies and high costs. For example conventional photovoltaic devices are limited to a theoretical maximum efficiency of 32%. Rectennas have received recent attention as energy harvesting and conversion devices. These devices absorb incident radiation and convert it to DC electric power through the use of a diode (rectifier). Although such devices have achieved over 90% conversion efficiency at microwave frequencies the fabrication of rectennas that operate in the optical frequency range is complicated by size limitations and the low frequency response of the currently employed planar diodes. As a result technologies for the development of optical rectennas are currently desired. Solution: The present invention describes the chemically-directed self-assembly of nanostructures ideal for potential use in optical rectenna applications. The formation of these nanostructures relies on complementary DNA sequences for binding specific components of the assembly. For example complementary DNA sequences can mediate the assembly of gold nanoparticles and single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWNTs) to form a duplex with a gold nanoparticle on opposite ends of a SWNT. Variation of the nucleic acid sequences allows for the creation of a large library of unique assembly components. This approach can be extended to the attachment of unique functional tags on SWNTs of specific types and lengths. For optical rectenna applications these tags can be combinations of metallic nanoparticles and insulating nanoparticles that result in efficient capture of visible and infrared radiation and display higher frequency responses than current diodes. Market Potential / Applications: This technology platform has potential application in solar energy conversion technologies. Potential for application also exists in RF-amplifiers digital devices and integrated circuits. Development and Licensing Status: This technology is available for licensing from Rice University.

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