Fuel cells hold great promise as a clean energy alternative to fossil fuels. But they still are expensive, with parts that can degrade over time, and--to be widely used in ground transportation, for example--they probably would require an overhaul of the nation's infrastructure. Chulsung Bae, an NSF-funded scientist and associate professor of chemistry and chemical biology, is working to develop a key fuel cell component that he hopes will be more durable and efficient than what is currently available, as well as less costly, with the hope of promoting more widespread use of the technology. Find out more in this discovery.
Credit: Chulsung Bae, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
A group of scientists has demonstrated a new way to use sunlight, water (H2O) and carbon dioxide (CO2)--some of the cheapest and most commonplace 'stuff' on Earth--to make unlimited amounts of fuel to power almost anything, anywhere. The method uses concentrated heat from the sun to convert water and CO2 into hydrogen (H2) or carbon monoxide (CO). Large amounts of these two gases could be combined to make liquid fuel that fits into America's existing energy economy. Find out more in this discovery.
Credit: California Institute of Technology (Caltech) Jointly owned by California Institute of Technology and ETH Zurich
Scientists in the United States and the United Kingdom have been awarded funding totaling more than $10.3 million to improve the process of biological photosynthesis. The U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) and the U.K. Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) collaborated in issuing the jointly funded awards. The support enables four transatlantic research teams to explore ways to overcome limitations in photosynthesis that could lead to the development of new methods for significantly increasing the yields of important crops for food production and/or sustainable bioenergy. Read more in this news release.
Credit: Zina Deretsky, National Science Foundation
The mission of the Division of Chemistry in NSF's Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences is to promote the health of academic chemistry and to enable basic research and education in the chemical sciences. The Division supports research in all traditional areas of chemistry and in multidisciplinary fields that draw upon the chemical sciences.
A University of Colorado Boulder team has developed a radically new technique that uses the power of sunlight to efficiently split water into its components of hydrogen and oxygen, paving the way for the broad use of hydrogen as a clean, green fuel.
As gas prices rise around the world, researchers are seeking a potential solution from endophytic fungi--fungi that live inside plants. While conducting a study on endophytes and their unique products, Gary Strobel of Montana State University and his fellow researchers made a discovery that could very well change our future fuel sourcing.
April 21, 2014
Solar Fuels: A grand challenge of 21st century chemistry
Solar army commander leads research group on quest for affordable solar fuels
Solar panels are becoming a familiar site in communities across the United States, but what about solar fuels? A solar fuel is produced from sunlight through artificial photosynthesis, mimicking what Mother Nature has been doing for billions of years. Many chemists and chemical engineers are working to make solar fuels a viable option in the future. In fact, there's even a worldwide "Solar Army" on the job, and California Institute of Technology chemistry professor Harry Gray is known as their commanding general!
Gray is director of the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Center for Chemical Innovation in Solar Fuels (CCI Solar). His troops are hundreds of senior researchers and eager students who are on a mission to find a metal oxide catalyst that can activate sunlight's energy by deconstructing and transforming water molecules into hydrogen fuel--on a large scale and affordably.
Up until now, the most effective catalysts have required pricy, precious metals, such as platinum. But, these chemists hope to identify new, much less expensive catalysts, which would make solar fuels a more affordable renewable energy option.
"Understanding the science behind the conversion of sunlight to a chemical fuel is a grand challenge for chemists. This team of chemists and chemical engineers is enhancing our understanding of fundamental chemical processes and inspiring the next generation of scientists," says Jacquelyn Gervay-Hague, director of the Division of Chemistry within NSF's Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences.
CCI Solar has played a leading role in fundamental research in this area, addressing basic science challenges in solar fuel production since the center's inception in 2005 and fostering the rapidly growing national and international solar fuels research community. CCI Solar is one of the NSF-funded Centers for Chemical Innovation --research centers focused on major, long-term fundamental chemical research challenges. CCIs that address these challenges will produce transformative research, lead to innovation, and attract broad scientific and public interest.
The research in this episode was funded by NSF award #0802907, POWERING THE PLANET: A Chemical Bonding Center in the Direct Conversion of Sunlight into Chemical Fuel.
Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations presented in this material are only those of the presenter grantee/researcher, author, or agency employee; and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.