Flash Dance

It all happens in a flash!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Solar power is so cool — the sun comes out and on go your lights! HOW does that happen?

It starts with chemicals like methyl viologen. They react with light to generate power. But researchers were mystified by a missing step in the process. 

Enter Kamil Sokolowski and colleagues from the University of Cambridge and University College London. 

They made a chemical camera so tiny, it can track reactions happening in real time! It’s made of gold, zinc, and indium nanoparticles. When hit with light from a chemical reaction, they sent a signal that the researchers captured. 

The team tested the camera on methyl viologen to see HOW it generates power. And they FOUND the extra step! During this step, a flash of light is emitted – and successfully recognized by the nanoparticles! This little “Flash Dance” is what makes the reaction GO! 

The researchers hope that their chemical camera can be used to develop better batteries and solar-powered systems!

Here comes the sun — whoosh!

Reference: Sokołowski, K., Huang, J., Földes, T. et al. Nanoparticle surfactants for kinetically arrestedphotoactive assemblies to track light-induced electron transfer. Nat. Nanotechnol. (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41565-021-00949-6