Emory Report
June 25, 2007
Volume 59, Number 33

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June 25, 2007
Chemists awarded grant for solar energy research

by robin tricoles

As part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s push to bolster basic solar energy research, Emory researchers recently received a $900,000 grant from the DOE’s Office of Science to develop a more robust and efficient way to convert solar energy into fuel.

The grant’s principal investigator, Goodrich C. White Professor of Chemistry Craig L. Hill, said he and his collaborators are focusing on creating a device capable of more efficiently splitting water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen using sunlight.

Creating such a device to produce fuel from solar energy has challenged researchers for some time. Successfully doing so requires the synthesis of unique materials, meticulous structural design, as well as computational and experimental analysis in the face of entropy.

“Our future as a civilization, as a society and as a planet will rely on us having a source of fuel that’s renewable and sustainable. And the only clear way to do this in the long term is to split water. Green plants also convert light into chemical energy. During photosynthesis, they convert water and carbon dioxide into sugars and oxygen,” said Hill.

Hill’s co-principal investigators at Emory include Professor of Chemistry Tim Lian and Principal Scientist and Director of the Emerson Center Djamaladdin Musaev.

The researchers’ grant was part of the DOE’s $22.7 million in basic research projects aimed at improving the capture, conversion and use of solar energy with the aim of increasing the amount of solar power used in the nation’s energy supply. Hill’s project, one of 27 funded, will focus on fundamental science to support the use of solar energy. The research will be conducted at universities and national laboratories in 18 states.

Fourteen of the 27 projects will focus on converting solar energy to electricity, and the remaining projects, including Hill’s, will focus on converting solar energy to chemical fuels for use in transportation as well as residential and industrial applications.

The basic solar research program is administered by the Department of Energy’s Office of
Energy Science in the Office of Science. For more information, visit www.sc.doe.gov/bes/bes.html.