Materials for Solar Energy Conversion

Research in the group involves the preparation and characterization of inorganic (nano-) materials and their application to solar energy conversion and artificial photosynthesis. In one project we use organic and inorganic materials to fabricate photovoltaic devices for solar electricity generation. The goal is to better understand photochemical charge generation and separation at solid-solid interfaces. This will allow the fabrication of inexpensive solar cells that are based entirely on abundant elements. This project is performed in collaboration with Prof. Gerko Oskam (Department of Applied Physics,  CINVESTAV-IPN, Merida, Mexico), and in collaboration with Richard Brutchey and Stephen Bradforth at the University of Southern California.  In another project we develop inorganic materials as photocatalysts for the overall water splitting reaction - a method to convert solar energy into hydrogen fuel. This project aims at a better understanding of charge separation at solid-solid and solid-liquid interfaces and at the fabrication of more efficient catalysts. Another goal is to identify methods for safe co-evolution of hydrogen and oxygen and for separating these gases. 

  Our materials are prepared by solution-phase and solid-state methods, and the devices are prepared as thin films or as suspensions. For physical characterization we employ electron microscopy, powder X-ray diffraction (XRD), optical spectroscopy, electrochemistry, photoelectrochemistry, surface photovoltage spectroscopy, zeta-potential, and irradiation measurements. 
  Our research is supported by grants from the National Science Foundation, Research Corporation for Science Advancement (Scialog Award), the Petroleum Research Fund administered by the American Chemical Society, and the California Energy Commission. 
For visual examples of our research, see here 

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Why Solar Energy?

Solar energy is the only sustainable energy form on this planet that has the capacity to propel humanity into the 22 century.  The goal of our research is to find inexpensive materials for solar energy conversion into fuel and electricity.  These materials will replace polluting fossil fuels and  allow a transition to a 100% sustainable economy.