Yale Chemists Funded for Research on Converting Solar Energy to Fuel

A team of chemists at Yale is working to increase the nation’s energy supply through effective use of solar power under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) program for basic research on solar energy utilization.

Direct conversion of sunlight into chemical fuels is vital in order to overcome the problem of the day/night variation of the solar resource and to provide solar-derived energy in forms useful for transportation, residential and industrial applications.  Researchers at Yale and 12 other institutions will sharing $12.8 million over three years in the DOE Solar Energy to Chemical Fuels initiative.

“Development of cheap, robust and efficient photocatalytic cells for water cleavage with visible-light power will allow the production of chemical fuels using sustainable and economically viable resources,” said project leader Gary Brudvig Professor and Chair of the Yale Department of Chemistry. “This has been a goal of photoelectrochemistry research for more than three decades. Our challenge is to improve efficiency of solar energy utilization.”

Along with Brudvig, the Yale research team includes the laboratories of Chemistry professors Victor Batista, Charles Schmuttenmaer and Robert Crabtree. The project aims to attach manganese complexes to titanium dioxide nanoparticles in order to develop a system that will efficiently produce renewable fuel using solar energy, according to Brudvig.

“These projects are part of our aggressive basic research in the physical sciences–what I call ‘transformational science’–aimed at achieving a new generation of breakthrough technologies that will push the cost-effectiveness of renewable energy sources to levels comparable to petroleum and natural gas sources,” Under Secretary for Science Raymond L. Orbach said. DOE’s Office of Science selected 27 projects that will focus on fundamental science to support enhanced use of solar energy.  Universities and national laboratories in 18 states will conduct the research.

The Yale team expects that the research will provide a comprehensive molecular-level understanding of the structural and dynamical principles to achieve breakthroughs in efficiency of photocatalytic devices.

 “This focus on renewable energy will become an increasingly significant goal in future years,” said Brudvig. “We hope to have an impact in this area.”

Science & Technology

Media Contact

Janet Rettig Emanuel: [email protected], 203-432-2157