Upconversion and Downconversion Utilizing Thin Film Colloidal Nanocrystals and Organic Materials

Technology #15952-17397-17808

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 a schematic of singlet exciton fission in pentacene based on calculations of the singlet and triplet excitons and charge transfer states at the pentacene/fullerene interface, with delocalized singlet excitons and two localized triplet excitons indicated by dotted circles.shows a device containing an organic-inorganic heterojunction and an exciton blocking layer.
Professor Marc Baldo
Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, MIT
External Link (www.rle.mit.edu)
Professor Moungi Bawendi
Department of Chemistry, MIT
External Link (nanocluster.mit.edu)
Nicholas Thompson
Department of Materials Science and Engineering, MIT
Daniel Congreve
Research Laboratory of Electronics, MIT
Professor Vladimir Bulovic
Faculty Admin Appointments-Engineering, MIT
External Link (onelab.mit.edu)
Mark Wilson
Research Laboratory of Electronics, MIT
Mengfei Wu
Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, MIT
Managed By
Christopher Noble
MIT Technology Licensing Officer - Clean and Renewable Energy
Patent Protection

Methods and Compositions for the Upconversion of Light

PCT Patent Application WO 2016-133872

Methods and Compositions for the Upconversion of Light

US Patent Pending US 2016-0237343

Devices Including Organic Materials such as Singlet Fission Materials

US Patent Pending US 2014-0224329

Compositions and Methods for the Downconversion of Light

US Patent Pending US 2016-0238455

Compositions and Methods for the Downconversion of Light

PCT Patent Application WO 2016-133864
Energy harvesting of non-emissive triplet excitons in ​tetracene by emissive ​PbS nanocrystals
Nature Materials, 13, 1039–1043 (2014)
Solid-state infrared-to-visible upconversion sensitized by colloidal nanocrystals
Nature Photonics, 10, 31–34 (2016)


The structure of thin film colloidal nanocrystals coupled with an organic material allows for the upconversion or downconversion of incoherent light with high efficiency. Potential applications include: photovoltaics, near infrared (NIR) photodetection, displays, medical imaging and other medicinal purposes such as activating a medical process like the desorption of a drug, and lighting.

Problem Addressed

In current photovoltaics, about two-thirds of the incident spectrum is lost. Photons either do not have enough energy to move electrons to the conduction band or they have excess energy that is converted to heat. Tunable upconversion - converting two or more low energy photons to one higher energy photon - or downconversion - taking one high energy photon and converting it to two or more low energy photons - can reduce these spectrum losses by converting photons to the most useful energy.  In NIR photodetection, displays, medical imaging, and lighting, there are photons that are outside of the useful spectrum and photon conversion would reduce losses in emission or absorption resulting in better efficiency. For example, generating two red photons from a single UV photon instead of one could increase the efficiency of fluorescent lighting by up to 30%. Most state-of-the-art photon conversion devices (e.g. lathanides and non-linear crystals) require high intensity, coherent light and the alternatives (e.g. triplet-triplet-annihilation) have limited bandwidth of operation, typically unable to make use of NIR spectrum. The proposed technology uses organic materials coupled to colloidal nanocrystals to allow the performance of up or down conversion from relatively low intensity, broadband, incoherent light.


For either upconversion or downconversion, an organic material is combined with colloidal nanocrystals either as a deposited multilayer structure or in a blend of the two materials. The employed nanocrystals are lead (II) sulfide (PbS) colloidal nanocrystals coated with a thermally-evaporated layer of tetracene or rubrene. The PbS nanocrystals coupled to tetracene resulted in 90% triplet exciton transfer from tetracene to the nanocrystal, through the short-range Dexter process, and those coupled to rubrene led to upconversion in the practical form of a thin film coating. The coating achieved a record-high anti-stokes shift of about 1eV. This increase can shift light from NIR to the photovoltaic optimal spectrum (1.1-1.5eV), greatly increasing the harvestable spectrum and increasing overall efficiency. 


  • Increased external quantum efficiency
  • Inclusion of more wavelengths into the useful spectrum
  • Thin films for facile device integration