Emissive Molecular Aggregates and Energy Migration in Luminescent Solar Concentrators
Conspectus Luminescent solar concentrators (LSCs) are light harvesting devices that are ideally suited to light collection in the urban environment where direct sunlight is often not available. LSCs consist of highly luminescent compounds embedded or coated on a transparent substrate that absorb diffuse or direct solar radiation over a large area. The resulting luminescence is trapped in the waveguide by total internal reflection to the thin edges of the substrate where the concentrated light can be used to improve the performance of photovoltaic devices. The concept of LSCs has been around for several decades, and yet the efficiencies of current devices are still below expectations for commercial viability. There are two primary challenges when designing new chromophores for LSC applications. Reabsorption of dye emission by chromophores within the waveguide is a significant loss mechanism attenuating the light output of LSCs. Concentration quenching, particularly in organic dye systems, restricts the quantity of chromophores that can be incorporated in the waveguide thus limiting the light absorbed by the LSC. Frequently, a compromise between increased light harvesting of the incident light and decreasing emission quantum yield is required for most organic chromophore-based systems due to concentration quenching. The low Stokes shift of common organic dyes used in current LSCs also imposes another optimization problem. Increasing light absorption of LSCs based on organic dyes to achieve efficient light harvesting also enhances reabsorption. Ideally, a design strategy to simultaneously optimize light harvesting, concentration quenching, and reabsorption of LSC chromophores is clearly needed to address the significant losses in LSCs. Over the past few years, research in our group has targeted novel dye structures that address these primary challenges. There is a common perception that dye aggregates are to be avoided in LSCs. It became apparent in our studies that aggregates of chromophores exhibiting aggregation-induced emission (AIE) behavior are attractive candidates for LSC applications. Strategic application of AIE chromophores has led to the development of the first organic-based transparent solar concentrator that harvests UV light as well as the demonstration of reabsorption reduction by taking advantage of energy migration processes between chromophores. Further developments led us to the application of perylene diimides using an energy migration/energy transfer approach. To prevent concentration quenching, a molecularly insulated perylene diimide with bulky substituents attached to the imide positions was designed and synthesized. By combining the insulated perylene diimide with a commercial perylene dye as an energy donor–acceptor emitter pair, detrimental luminescence reabsorption was reduced while achieving a high chromophore concentration for efficient light absorption. This Account reviews and reinspects some of our recent work and the improvements in the field of LSCs. Graphic Abstract
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