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Near-Infrared Plasmonic Nanomaterials for Enhanced Solar Energy Harvesting
Mentor: Dr. Zijie Yan
Department: Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

Efficient energy conversion materials, especially those for solar energy harvesting, are crucial for ensuring sustainability of our society. Plasmonic materials can largely increase the light absorption of photovoltaic semiconductors and photocatalytic metal oxides by forming hybrid materials with them, yet traditional plasmonic materials such as Ag and Au nanostructures typically only work for visible light, while a significant portion (~40%) of the solar radiance lies in the near-infrared region (wavelength > 800 nm). Enhancing the light absorption in this region will significantly increase the overall efficiency of solar energy harvesting. This project aims to synthesize plasmonic nanomaterials that exhibit tunable plasmonic resonance in the near infrared region. One of the promising candidates is molybdenum trioxide (MoO3) due to its low free electron density that leads to near-infrared plasmonic resonance. Hydrothermal reactions will be applied to synthesize MoO3 nanostructures. Reaction conditions will be surveyed to control the size and shape of these nanostructures, which in turn, will change the free electron density and surface plasmon resonance. Doping of MoO3 by other elements will also be conducted to further change the free electron density. The project will not only broaden the category of plasmonic materials, but also greatly increase the efficiency of their applications in sustainable energy due to a larger spectrum of absorption.