One of the most challenging battles in renewable energy has been to create an efficient way to translate photons into electricity. The most efficient methods of doing so are only able to convert a maximum of 20 to 30 percent of photovoltaic potential into electricity, and even these methods are economically infeasible to use as their production costs are too high.
The best that modern photovoltaic cells can do while keeping production costs as low as possible is around 12 to 15 percent. This forces consumers whom want renewable energy from a source as readily available as the sun to cover acres of land with large photovoltaic cells to supplement their energy needs.
Scientists have begun turning towards the most abundant source of translating solar energy into energy: photosynthesis. This process used by green plants has been shown to have a quantum efficiency of almost 100%, which means that it could be the scientific breakthrough that researchers are hoping for to make renewable energy from the sun economically viable for everyone.
The leading theory concerning the stark efficiency of biological cells in plants to convert photons into energy that can be harnessed revolves around the role of non-equilibrium vibrational structures. While the specific mechanics of how these mechanics work, the idea is that they could provide scientists with an insight on how to greatly improve photovoltaic cells in addition to drastically increasing how efficiently energy transfer is over large distances in the future.
The general theory behind how plants transfer energy during photosynthesis revolves around high-energy electrons, known as excitons, transferring energy primarily through the use of quantum particle eigenstates. These excitons transmit the energy between pigment particles, which in turn allow for decoherence and recoherence to occur.
This results in an incredibly efficient method of moving energy from one place to the next while producing minimal damage to the proteins surrounding the pigments. The same principles used in photosynthesis could be applied to electronics, which in turn could produce a more immediate way of efficiently turning solar energy into electricity.
With regards to the long-term benefits of these non-equilibrium vibrational structures, they could potentially replace the need for electrons to move to transmit energy, which in turn could lead to surprising developments in the field of electronics that allow for energy lost during transmission to be greatly reduced or even for quantum tunneling effects of incredibly small semiconductors to be solved.
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