Solar energy conversion, Artificial Photosynthesis, solar fuels- hydrogen and oxygen by water splitting and reduction of carbon dioxide to hydrocarbons, Proton Coupled Electron Transfer (PCET) with applications in chemistry, energy conversion, catalysis and biology, photophysics and photochemistry in thin films and at interfaces.
Ph.D.,Stanford University(1966); B.S., Ohio University(1963)
One of the most pressing issues facing mankind in the 21st century is creating a new energy future based largely on renewable energy sources, more efficient use of existing sources, and minimizing environmental impact. The ultimate renewable energy source is the sun but it is of low intensity, requiring large collection areas, and it goes down at night placing huge demands on energy storage.
Our approach to this, in the UNC Energy Frontier Research Center for Solar Fuels, is solar fuels and application of a photoelectrochemical approach to water splitting into oxygen and hydrogen and reducing carbon dioxide to carbon-based fuels. It utilizes the concept of the Dye Sensitized Photoelectrosynthesis Cell (DSPEC) which integrates molecular assemblies for light absorption and water oxidation or CO2 reduction on the surfaces of high band gap semiconductor oxides – TiO2, NiO.
Specific areas of research include:
Synthesis of catalysts for water oxidation, carbon dioxide reduction and molecular assemblies for photochemical and photoelectrochemical energy conversion.
Reactions in which both electrons and protons are transferred, plays an important role in catalysis and energy conversion in chemistry and biology. There are important examples in photosynthesis and respiration. PCET provides the basis for single electron activation of multi-electron transfer catalysis and simultaneous electron-proton transfer (EPT) is used to avoid high energy intermediates. We are exploring the role of PCET in three areas: