Inexpensive, Efficient, and Robust Materials for Solar Energy Conversion Devices

Web Published:

Princeton Docket # 12-2782


Solar energy conversion devices include photovoltaics, photoelectrochemical cells and photocatalysts, which convert the energy of sunlight into electricity and/or produce fuels from carbon dioxide and water.  Wide-scale implementation of these devices requires the development of less expensive materials with highly specific electronic properties to achieve useful efficiencies.  The current materials design strategy aims to tune properties of relatively inexpensive transition metal oxides to increase sunlight absorption while preserving potential redox reactivity.


Using first-principles quantum mechanics calculations, researchers at Princeton University have identified various MnO: ZnO alloys as candidates for applications in the solar energy conversion devices.  They are predicted to efficiently absorb sunlight and their electronic structure makes them thermodynamically suited to split water or reduce CO2 to fuels/fuel precursors.  Furthermore, these materials are economical and attractive for current applications due to their corrosion-resistance and elemental abundance.  In addition, n- and p-type dopants that may enhance electron conductivity in these alloys have been identified.



·         Photocatalysts for fuel production

·         Electrodes in photoelectrochemical cells

·         Photovoltaic materials in solar cells



·         Low cost

·         High efficiency

·         Robustness

·         Resistance to corrosion

·         Enhanced conductivity


Faculty Inventor

Emily Ann Carter is Gerhard R. Andlinger Professor in Energy and the Environment and Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering & Applied and Computational Mathematics at Princeton University.   She is also the Founding Director of the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment at Princeton University.  Professor Carter's primary research lies along the interface of chemistry, materials science, applied physics, and applied mathematics.  Much of her work focuses on predicting the behavior of materials, analyzing properties of materials on the atomic level and then using that information to inform models at higher length scales for a comprehensive view of materials behavior. She has received many honors for her work, including election to the International Academy of Quantum Molecular Science (2009), the National Academy of Sciences (2008), and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2008).


Intellectual Property Status

Patent protection is pending.


Princeton is seeking to identify appropriate partners for the further development and commercialization of this technology.




Michael Tyerech

Princeton University Office of Technology Licensing



Laurie Bagley

Princeton University Office of Technology Licensing




Patent Information:
For Information, Contact:
William Gowen
Licensing Associate
Princeton University
Emily Carter
Dalal Kanan
green tech
solar cell