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A new material developed by scientists, inspired by television components, could have dual benefits in solar panels and cancer treatment. This innovative composite, containing ultra-small silicon nanoparticles and organic compounds akin to those in OLED TVs, improves energy transfer between molecules. This advancement enables the conversion of low-energy light to high-energy light, holding promise for both solar panel efficiency and cancer treatment enhancement.

New material component developed for cancer treatment

Mechanical engineering and materials science professor at UC Riverside. Dr Lorenzo Mangolini said that the new material is an improvement of past attempts to effectively exchange energy n dissimilar elements.  Numerous potential applications exist across various domains, yet a particularly noteworthy one, especially concerning human health, pertains to the realm of cancer therapy.

The research team has developed a composite material that achieves photon up-conversion, allowing the emission of higher-energy light than the incoming light. This has potential applications in cancer treatment, where high-energy light such as ultraviolet lasers can produce cancer-attacking free radicals. However, such light struggles to reach deep tissues. In contrast, near-infrared light penetrates well but lacks the needed energy. The new material converts low-energy light into higher-energy light, presenting a possible solution for precise cancer therapy.

The composite also has applications in solar energy, enhancing solar cell efficiency by capturing usually unused near-infrared light that passes through panels.

Manglin said that the efficiency of arrays can be significantly improved by harnessing low-energy photons, an energy source often overlooked by current solar cells. This innovation has the potential to decrease solar panel dimensions by up to 30% through optimization.

New component has application beyond cancer therapy

The potential implications of this novel component extends beyond cancer therapy and photovoltaic panels. Its application in biological imaging, light-dependent three-dimensional printing, and the improvement of light detectors for autonomous vehicles navigating through misty environments symbolize additional progressions within these domains.

The advancement of this new composite substance initiates novel horizons within the domain of material science harbouring the potential for noteworthy strides in harnessing solar energy and addressing cancer.