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In the near future, efficient solar cells might be made from electronic polymers. Ideally, these "plastic" solar cells would be cheap and flexible, and could be used almost anywhere. Many believe that graphene, a flexible sheet of carbon only a single atom thick may be the ideal material for the top surface of these solar cells because it can let light into the cell, and also conduct electricity out of the cell. The image shown here is a semiconducting polymer crystallized on the surface of graphene. The beautiful pattern is produced by the interference of light waves as they reflect off of the crystals, the same phenomenon that gives rise to the brilliant coloration of butterfly wings. The colors warp and change with variations in thickness and with the contours of the substrate to produce a surreal landscape. Aside from its beauty, the image suggests that there is a significant interaction between the polymer and the graphene, which must be understood if these materials are to be used together for solar cells.

Image produced by the: Alejandro Briseno Research Group
Image submitted by: Sami Fakhouri