Solar Fuels

Conceptual drawing of an artificial photosynthetic system that uses only light, water, and carbon dioxide as inputs, and produces clean, renewable fuel.

The Sun produces enough energy in one hour to power all human activity on Earth for a full year, and yet storage of this energy in the form of convenient, inexpensive fuels has remained technically elusive despite steady scientific progress. The design of highly efficient, non‐biological, molecular‐level energy conversion “machines” that generate fuels directly from sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide is both a formidable challenge and an opportunity that, if realized, could have a revolutionary impact on our energy system. However, we still lack sufficient knowledge to design solar-fuel generation systems with the required efficiency, scalability, and sustainability to be economically viable.

JCAP seeks to discover new ways to produce energy-dense fuels, such as hydrogen and carbon-based fuels, using only sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide as inputs.  Artificial photosynthesis, once achieved and scaled up, could be significantly more efficient than biofuel production processes and would not require arable land, agricultural feedstock, or substantial inputs of energy or water.  Success could ultimately drive commercial development of solar-fuel systems designed from inception to be easily deployable almost anywhere

Research in JCAP spans efforts ranging from the fundamental discovery of new catalysts to the design and testing of prototype test-beds.

The research program involves four research thrusts:

Thrust 1:  Electrocatalysis
Discovery and understanding of heterogeneous CO2 reduction reaction and oxygen evolution reaction electrocatalysis

Thrust 2:  Photocatalysis and Light Capture
Discovery and understanding of CO2 reduction and oxygen evolution photocatalysis and development of light harvesting photonic architectures

Thrust 3:  Materials Integration into Components
Development and understanding of integrated catalyst/light absorber assemblies

Thrust 4:  Modeling, Test-Bed Prototyping, and Benchmarking
Modeling and simulation of device parameters and test-bed architectures