Solar cells from Penn State contain photosensitive molecules that use fluorescence resonance energy transfer to increase the efficiency of the energy generation.


  • Reduced costs
  • Efficient
  • Sustainable


  • Commercial and residential energy generation

UN Sustainable Development Goals Addressed

  • Goal 7: Affordable & Clean Energy


  • Protein bacteriorhodopsin

The Challenge

When solar cells convert sunlight into electricity they do not do so with one hundred percent efficiency. While solar cells absorb light, some of the loss in efficiency is due to the panels’ also reflecting light. Inefficiencies such as this are compounded in large-scale solar farms.

Innovation Details

The solar cells are perovskite-type solar cells that contain the bacteriorhodopsin (bR). The addition of the bR protein enhances the use of the Förster (fluorescence) resonance energy transfer (FRET). FRET is a mechanism for energy transfer between a pair of photosensitive molecules. The bR protein and the perovskite material have similar electrical properties and are able to absorb light energy to create electricity. Adding the bR protein improved the device’s efficiency from 14.5 to 17 percent.