PHILADELPHIA -- Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have been awarded part of a $22.7 million grant to improve the capture, conversion and use of solar energy. The project is a multi-center effort funded by the Department of Energy and aimed at increasing the amount of solar power in the nation's energy supply.
Research at Penn will involve theoretical and computational design of new materials for solar light harvesting, solar production of chemical fuels and fuel cell electrochemistry. Following a "materials by design" approach, Andrew M. Rappe, professor of chemistry and principal investigator for the grant, and his team will explore the use of semi-conducting ferroelectric materials for direct conversion of sunlight to hydrogen.
"Penn has been a leader in materials research for decades, and this grant is a recognition of our ability to design new materials to meet America's growing energy challenges," Rappe said. "The integrated research teams of the Penn Energy Research Group are leading the way in identifying new ways of harvesting the sun's energy, as part of a multi-institutional DOE-sponsored Solar Initiative to improve energy sustainability and control climate change."
Current, additional Penn ERG projects are designed to improve U. S. energy competitiveness in many areas including fuel cell research, renewable energy conversion, hydrogen storage and the creation of novel composite materials.
The DOE's Advanced Energy Initiative will focus on fundamental science and technology development that advance the use of sunlight as a practicable solution for the nation's energy needs. Priorities for the program include a more efficient conversion of solar energy to electricity, as well as the conversion of solar energy to chemical fuels, a concern raised by the very nature of day/night variations in available sunlight.