Modeling How Electric Charges Move

March 13, 2008

Learning how to control the movement of electrons on the molecular and nanometer scales could help scientists devise small-scale circuits for many applications, including more efficient ways of storing and using solar energy. Marshall Newton, a theoretical chemist at Brookhaven Lab, presents a talk highlighting the theoretical techniques used to understand the factors affecting electron movement at the American Physical Society meeting.

"Electron transfer plays a vital role in numerous biological processes, including nerve cell communication and converting energy from food into useful forms," says Newton. "It's the initial step in photosynthesis, as well, where charges are first separated and the energy is stored for later use - which is one of the concepts behind energy production using solar cells."

Newton described how combining electronic quantum mechanical theory with computational techniques has led to a unified, compact way to understand the nature of charge transfer in complex molecular aggregates.

"In essence," he explains, "the research has led to understanding electronic transport in terms of quantitative answers to a few basic mechanistic questions: namely, how far, how efficiently, and by which route (or molecular 'pathway') a charge moves from a 'donor' to an 'acceptor' in the molecular assembly." The answers come from detailed molecular quantum calculations of the energy gaps separating the relevant electronic states, and the strength of coupling between adjacent molecular units along the "pathways."

"This new approach may yield ways to predict and control electronic transport behavior by 'tuning' the molecular components, resulting in capabilities that can be used to design new solar-based energy schemes," Newton said.

Source: Brookhaven National Laboratory

Explore further: Light and matter merge in quantum coupling

Related Stories

Light and matter merge in quantum coupling

August 22, 2016

Where light and matter intersect, the world illuminates. Where light and matter interact so strongly that they become one, they illuminate a world of new physics, according to Rice University scientists.

Catching proteins in the act

August 23, 2016

Some of the fastest processes in our body run their course in proteins activated by light. The protein rhodopsin sees to it that our eyes can rapidly take in their ever-changing surroundings. Free-electron X-ray lasers such ...

Watch a tiny space rocket work

August 8, 2016

Moving a nanosatellite around in space takes only a tiny amount of thrust. Engineers from Michigan Technological University and the University of Maryland teamed up, put a nanoscale rocket under a microscope, and watched ...

Researchers study how cobalt catalysts produce hydrogen

July 29, 2016

It's the worst short story ever written: on a dark and stormy night; the end. The real story—the context, the tension, and the motivations—are missing. That's what it feels like for scientists reading the reaction that ...

Attosecond science opens new avenues in femtochemistry

August 17, 2016

Attosecond Science is a new exciting frontier in contemporary physics, aimed at time-resolving the motion of electrons in atoms, molecules and solids on their natural timescale. Electronic dynamics derives from the creation ...

Recommended for you

Understanding nature's patterns with plasmas

August 23, 2016

Patterns abound in nature, from zebra stripes and leopard spots to honeycombs and bands of clouds. Somehow, these patterns form and organize all by themselves. To better understand how, researchers have now created a new ...

Measuring tiny forces with light

August 25, 2016

Photons are bizarre: They have no mass, but they do have momentum. And that allows researchers to do counterintuitive things with photons, such as using light to push matter around.

Stretchy supercapacitors power wearable electronics

August 23, 2016

A future of soft robots that wash your dishes or smart T-shirts that power your cell phone may depend on the development of stretchy power sources. But traditional batteries are thick and rigid—not ideal properties for ...

A new study looks for the cortical conscious network

August 26, 2016

New research published in the New Journal of Physics tries to decompose the structural layers of the cortical network to different hierarchies enabling to identify the network's nucleus, from which our consciousness could ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.