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Quickly transferring energy from one place to another—without loss—could fundamentally change solar panels and computers. Materials made from long chains of tiny particles, or nanoparticles, show promise for such energy transfer. However, going even smaller than nano-dimensions hasn't worked quite as planned. Researchers suspected the particles needed to be close to each other to transfer energy efficiently. Now, a team has shown that the particles can be too close. Specifically, the energy transfer drops dramatically when the particles in the chain are less than a nanometer apart.
For those who want to build better solar panels or computer chips, this study answers a basic question about the physics of a promising design. That design might use a chemical structure that contains chains of nanoparticles. The study explains why the energy transfer efficiency drops. That is, it shows how quantum mechanical effects alter the transfers. Also, it shows that complex calculations, using a real-time density functional tight binding approach, shed mechanistic insight to analyzing energy transfers based on interparticle distance.
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