Solar vitality conversion focus of Emory chemist’s new analysis | Emory College


Emory University scientists will be looking for a way to convert sunlight into storable and transportable fuels as part of a multi-institutional research group that has received a $ 40 million grant from the US Department of Energy.

The highly competitive five-year grant was awarded to the lead institution, the University of North Carolina’s Center for Hybrid Approaches in Solar Energy to Liquid Fuels (CHASE). Tianquan “Tim” Lian, William Henry Emerson Professor of Chemistry at Emory, will serve as coordinator for the “Surface Characterization and Dynamics” part of the project, which focuses on developing new tools for converting solar energy.

“I am very happy to be part of the CHASE team. It provides funding, expertise and infrastructure to enable transformative and effective research on solar fuels, ”says Lian. “Advancing the science and technology of solar fuels is one of the most important scientific endeavors today.”

With the new funding, CHASE is working alongside Emory with researchers from North Carolina State University, Brookhaven National Laboratory, the University of Pennsylvania, and Yale University to gain a basic understanding of the fuels from sunlight systems and develop new design principles for them .

Her goal is to develop hybrid photoelectrodes made from semiconductor materials and molecular catalysts that can convert carbon dioxide and nitrogen into liquid solar fuels.

The rational design of such hybrid photoelectrodes requires a molecular understanding of how absorbed solar energy drives the chemical conversions required for fuel production.

To achieve such an understanding at the molecular level, Lian’s Emory team will lead efforts to develop advanced spectroscopic tools to study these photoelectrodes under operating conditions of the device, providing technical guidance and coordinating with other researchers.

Renewable energies have long been a focus of Lian’s research. In 2018, he received a $ 7.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Defense to study electrochemical processes that underlie fuel cell technology.

Conversion of solar energy into chemical energy

While the sun is shining, sunlight is a constant supply of renewable energy.

The production of solar fuel, also known as artificial photosynthesis, is the process of converting solar energy into chemical energy. This process could produce sustainable, transportable and storable fuels.

The researchers hope to make advances in liquid solar fuels, which chemically convert carbon dioxide and nitrogen into fuel targets. If successful, this approach could be useful not only in the manufacture of fuels, commodities and materials, but also in the production of ammonia for use in fuels and fertilizers.

Solar panel technology uses photovoltaic cells that generate electricity from sunlight. In recent years, great advances have increased cost efficiency. However, when the sun is not shining, the photovoltaic does not generate any energy.

Solar liquid fuels would make it possible to store, transport and use all of this unused energy.

In late July, the DOE announced this grant as part of a five-year CHASE funding of $ 100 million and another award focused on promoting artificial photosynthesis to make fuels from sunlight.

“Sunlight is the world’s most basic source of energy, and the ability to generate fuels directly from sunlight can revolutionize the US energy industry,” said Secretary of Science Paul Dabbar. “This effort will keep America at the forefront of artificial photosynthesis research, an area of ​​great challenge but promising success.”

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