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Top Story

Electrons take 1 step forward without 2 steps back

Researchers have, for the first time, successfully used electric dipoles to completely suppress electron transfer in one direction while accelerating in the other. The discovery could aid development of improved solar cells and other energy-conversion devices and hasten the design of new and superb energy and electronic materials. It is not a stretch to say that life depends on strictly regulated electron transfer. Electron transfer is among the most fundamental processes for sustaining life and for energy conversion. It occurs when an electron moves from one atom or molecule to another, bringing its electrical energy with it. Photosynthesis, mitochondrial and cellular respiration, and nitrogen fixation are among the many biological processes made possible by the orderly movement of electrons. Because electron transfer is both ubiquitous and important, scientists have invested enormous efforts into understanding the process and used what they learned to create solar cells, fuel cells, batteries and many other devices that also depend on efficient electron transfer. This is the first time that scientists have shown that the dipole accelerates electron transfer in one direction and completely suppresses it in the other.

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