Scientists from the universities of Bristol and Cambridge have found a way to create polymeric semiconductor nanostructures that absorb light and transport its energy further than previously observed.
This could pave the way for more flexible and more efficient solar cells and photodetectors.
The researchers, whose work appears in the journal Science, say their findings could be a "game changer" by allowing the energy from sunlight absorbed in these materials to be captured and used more efficiently.
Lightweight semiconducting plastics are now widely used in mass market electronic displays such those found in phones, tablets and flat screen televisions.
However, using these materials to convert sunlight into electricity, to make solar cells, is far more complex.
The photo-excited states - which is when photons of light are absorbed by the semiconducting material - need to move so that they can be "harvested" before they lose their energy in less useful ways.