Materials Science

Scientific Frontiers in Renewable Generation of Fuels
Gordana Dukovic, University of Colorado, Boulder

The climate change caused by ever-increasing levels of CO2 in the atmosphere demonstrates that our reliance on fossil fuels to power the planet is unsustainable. Discovery and implementation of renewable sources of energy is one of the most urgent and challenging problems of our time. The amount of solar energy that strikes the Earth in one hour is greater than the global energy consumption in one year, so sunlight holds immense potential to satisfy our energy needs. However, harvesting and storage of that energy in usable forms remains a scientific and technological challenge. Generation of fuels using solar energy is a desirable mechanism of energy storage for practical, on-demand availability. Chemists, biologists, physicists and engineers are employing a broad range of approaches to solving the solar fuels problem. The scientific frontiers in this field include the discovery of suitable light-harvesting materials, design of chemical catalysts that facilitate the formation of new chemical bonds using electrons and holes created by absorption of light, and the development of materials or biological systems that integrate light absorption and catalysis. The introduction to the Renewable Energy session will provide the context for the two topics of discussion: biological approaches to solar generation of H2, and efforts to catalyze conversion of CO2 to fuels.

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Materials Science

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