In the quest to realize artificial photosynthesis to convert sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide into fuel – just as plants do – researchers need to not only identify materials to efficiently perform photoelectrochemical water splitting, but also to understand why a certain material may or may not work. Now scientists at Berkeley Lab have pioneered a technique that uses nanoscale imaging to understand how local, nanoscale properties can affect a material’s macroscopic performance.
In a big step toward sun-powered fuel production, scientists at Berkeley Lab have used artificial photosynthesis to convert carbon dioxide into hydrocarbons at efficiencies greater than plants. The achievement marks a significant advance in the effort to move toward sustainable sources of fuel.
Berkeley Lab researchers have developed a new method of analyzing the molecular-scale structure of organo-lead halide perovskites, a promising class of materials that could energize the solar cell industry. They combined advanced X-ray spectroscopy measurements with calculations based on fundamental, “first principles” theory to obtain an atomic-scale view of the material.
Scientists at Berkeley Lab and Caltech have—in just two years—nearly doubled the number of materials known to have potential for use in solar fuels. They did so by developing a process that promises to speed the discovery of commercially viable generation of solar fuels that could replace coal, oil, and other fossil fuels.
Berkeley Lab scientists have found a way to engineer the atomic-scale chemical properties of a water-splitting catalyst for integration with a solar cell, and the result is a big boost to the stability and efficiency of artificial photosynthesis. The research comes out of the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis (JCAP), established to develop a cost-effective method of turning sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide into fuel.
Scientists have simplified the steps to create highly efficient silicon solar cells by applying a new mix of materials to a standard design. The special blend of materials eliminates the need for a process known as doping that steers the device’s properties by introducing foreign atoms. Doping can also degrade performance.
Understanding and manipulating plasmons is important for their potential use in photovoltaics, solar cell water splitting, and sunlight-induced fuel production from CO2. Berkeley Lab researchers have used a real-time numerical algorithm to study both the plasmon and hot carrier within the same framework. That is critical for understanding how long a particle stays excited, and whether there is energy backflow from hot carrier to plasmon.
The Solar Energy Research Center (SERC), renamed to Chu Hall, opened today at Berkeley Lab. It will house laboratories and offices devoted to photovoltaic and electro-chemical solar energy systems designed to improve on what plants do and make transportation fuels. The building houses the lab’s programs in the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis (JCAP) and the Kavli Energy NanoSciences Institute . The three-story, nearly 40,000 square-foot, building cost $59 million will house approximately 100 researchers and was named after former Berkeley Lab Director Steven Chu, who went on to become U.S. Energy Secretary.
The U.S. Department of Energy today announced $75 million in funding to renew the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis (JCAP), a DOE Energy Innovation Hub originally established in 2010 with the goal of harnessing solar energy for the production of fuel. JCAP researchers are focused on achieving the major scientific breakthroughs needed to produce liquid transportation fuels from a combination of sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide, using artificial photosynthesis.
Two Berkeley Lab scientists, climate scientist William Collins and chemist Heinz Frei, have been named Fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) for 2014.