College faculty and alumni contribute to new DOE 60$M Solar Fuel Research

July 31, 2020

New partnership between DOE national labs and universities builds on JCAP’s advances in artificial photosynthesis, renewable fuels 

New solar material test

Scientists at JCAP create new materials by spraying combinations of elements onto thin plates. (Image courtesy of Caltech)

The quest for renewable fuels harvested from the sun continues, as the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has announced two new major awards focused on advancing artificial photosynthesis technologies for the production of fuels from sunlight. As part of this effort, DOE has awarded $60 million to a new solar fuels initiative led by Caltech in close partnership with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), along with SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

The Caltech-led partnership – called the Liquid Sunlight Alliance (LiSA) – will receive approximately $60 million over five years to pursue an approach called "co-design," which seeks to streamline the complicated steps needed to convert sunlight into fuels to make the process more efficient. The team, under the direction of Harry Atwater of Caltech, will combine computationally driven theory work with real-time observations using ultrafast X-rays and other advanced imaging techniques.  

"LiSA will chart a new path to make liquid fuels from sunlight. By combining insights from chemical sciences and materials sciences, together we will form coupled chemical microenvironments, enabling us to use the same strategy that nature uses to form complex chemical products such as liquid fuels," said Atwater, who is also the Howard Hughes Professor of Applied Physics and Materials Science at Caltech. 

LiSA will build on the foundational work of the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis (JCAP), a DOE Fuels from Sunlight Energy Innovation Hub founded 10 years ago and led by Caltech in close partnership with Berkeley Lab. Faculty members of the College who contributed as PIs to the research effort at JCAP include: Alexis Bell, Martin Head-Gordon, and Dean Toste. Alum Walter Drisdell, a staff scientist at Berkeley Lab was also contributing PI.

Read the full story here about the new initiative>