Engineers Create an 'Impossible' Light Sensor With an Efficiency of 200%

Because of the peculiarities of quantum physics, researchers have created a sensor that transforms light into an electrical indication with an astounding 200 percent accuracy.

The team behind the invention claims that because of the photodiode's sensitivity, it may be used in technology that tracks a person's vital indicators (such as pulse or respiration rate) without anything having to be introduced into or even connected to the body.

The quantity of light particles that can be converted into electrical impulses by a photodiode is usually used to evaluate its effectiveness. The quantity of electrons produced by light striking the sensor, or photoelectron yield, is what the researchers are referring to in this context.

Rather than the quantity of electrical power generated, a photodiode's quantum efficiency—the basic ability of a substance to create charge-carrying particles at a fundamental level—determines the photoelectron yield.

Rene Janssen, a chemical engineer from the Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands, says, "This sounds amazing, but we're not talking about typical energy economy here."

"Quantum effectiveness is crucial in the realm of photodiodes. It tallies the number of photons that the diode transforms into electrons rather than the overall quantity of solar energy."

The group's initial project involved a gadget that merged perovskite and organic solar panel cells. The researchers were able to accomplish a 70 percent quantum efficiency by stacking the cells so that light ignored by one layer is captured by another.

Additional green light was added in order to raise this number. The sensor was additionally enhanced to enhance its capacity to screen various kinds of light and react to absolutely no light. This increased the photodiode's quantum effectiveness past 200 percent, though it is currently unclear why this improvement is taking place.

The method by which photodiodes generate a current may be crucial. Electrons in the photodiode substance are excited by photons, which causes them to move and accumulate charge. According to the researchers' theory, the green light could potentially liberate electrons on one layer, which would only become current when photons were to hit a different layer.

Chemical engineer Riccardo Ollearo from the Eindhoven University of Technology believes that the extra green light causes an accumulation of electrons in the perovskite layer. When infrared rays are taken in by the organic layer and assimilated, this functions as a store of charges that are released.

Alternatively put, "every infrared photon that passes through and is transformed into an electron receives companionship from a bonus electron, leading to an efficiency of 200 percent or more."

A more sensitive photodiode is one that is better able to detect very minute changes in light at a larger distance. This is because more efficient photodiodes are also more sensitive. This takes us back to checking the rate of breathing and heartbeat.

The researchers used a super-thin photodiode that is a hundred times thinner than a page of newsprint to detect minute variations in infrared light reflected back from a finger at a 130-centimeter distance (51.2 inches). Similar to how a smartwatch sensor works, but working across a table, it was demonstrated to match blood pressure and pulse rate.

The researchers used an identical setup to gauge breathing rates from minute chest motions. If the technology can be effectively developed from the experimental level, there is promise for all kinds of surveillance and medicinal uses.

According to Janssen, "We want to see if we can further enhance the gadget, for example by making it faster." "We also want to see if we can try the gadget in a clinical setting."

The research has been published in Science Advances.