Media Releases

Engineers Solve Energy Puzzle

November 7, 2011

TORONTO, ON — Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to mate­ri­als sci­ence and engi­neer­ing (MSE) researchers have demon­strat­ed for the first time the key mech­a­nism behind how ener­gy lev­els align in a crit­i­cal group of advanced mate­ri­als. This dis­cov­ery is a sig­nif­i­cant break­through in the devel­op­ment of sus­tain­able tech­nolo­gies such as dye-sen­si­tized solar cells and organ­ic light-emit­ting diodes (OLEDs).

Tran­si­tion met­al oxides, which are best-known for their appli­ca­tion as super-con­duc­tors, have made pos­si­ble many sus­tain­able tech­nolo­gies devel­oped over the last two decades, includ­ing organ­ic pho­to­voltaics and organ­ic light-emit­ting diodes. While it is known that these mate­ri­als make excel­lent elec­tri­cal con­tacts in organ­ic-based devices, it wasn’t known why.

Until now.

In research pub­lished today in Nature Mate­ri­als, MSE PhD Can­di­date Mark T. Grein­er and Pro­fes­sor Zheng-Hong Lu, Cana­da Research Chair (Tier I) in Organ­ic Opto­elec­tron­ics, lay out the blue­print that con­clu­sive­ly estab­lish­es the prin­ci­ple of ener­gy align­ment at the inter­face between tran­si­tion met­al oxides and organ­ic mol­e­cules.

“The ener­gy-lev­el of mol­e­cules on mate­ri­als sur­faces is like a mas­sive jig­saw puz­zle that has chal­lenged the sci­en­tif­ic com­mu­ni­ty for a very long time,” says Pro­fes­sor Lu. “There have been a num­ber of sug­gest­ed the­o­ries with many crit­i­cal links miss­ing. We have been for­tu­nate to suc­cess­ful­ly build these links to final­ly solve this decades-old puz­zle.”

With this piece of the puz­zle solved, this dis­cov­ery could enable sci­en­tists and engi­neers to design sim­pler and more effi­cient organ­ic solar cells and OLEDs to fur­ther enhance sus­tain­able tech­nolo­gies and help secure our ener­gy future.

The paper, enti­tled “Uni­ver­sal Ener­gy-Lev­el Align­ment of Mol­e­cules on Met­al Oxides,” is avail­able online

This pub­li­ca­tion marks the third major research paper in 2011 for Pro­fes­sor Lu’s Organ­ic Opto­elec­tron­ics Research Group. Sci­ence pub­lished PhD Can­di­date Michael G. Helander’sChlo­ri­nat­ed Indi­um Tin Oxide Elec­trodes with High Work Func­tion for Organ­ic Device Com­pat­i­bil­i­ty” on April 14 and Nature Pho­to­ton­ics pub­lished PhD Can­di­date Zhib­in Wang’sUnlock­ing the Full Poten­tial of Organ­ic Light-Emit­ting Diodes on Flex­i­ble Plas­tic” on Octo­ber 30.


For more infor­ma­tion, please con­tact:

Liam Mitchell
Com­mu­ni­ca­tions & Media Rela­tions Strate­gist
Engi­neer­ing Strate­gic Com­mu­ni­ca­tions
Office: 416–978-4498