"If we could efficiently convert CO2 to methanol using solar power, we could develop a carbon-neutral fuel cycle and produce a liquid fuel that requires minimal changes to the existing fuel distribution infrastructure," MacDonnell said.
Zhang is working with Meng Tao, a former UT Arlington engineering professor now at Arizona State University, to use an iron oxysulfide iron oxide that with a small amount of sulfur introduced into it as a building material for next generation photovoltaic solar panels. Their goal is to create a photovoltaic cell that is capable of producing the massive amounts of energy society needs and one that can use materials abundant in the environment.
Zhang's theoretical work has suggested the sulfurized hematite is a good candidate for an efficient conductor. The process for creating it is also less expensive and energy intensive than for silicon, the currently preferred material.
"Material scarcity and cost are two major bottlenecks for the expansion of solar electricity," said Zhang. "If we want to get to terawatt capacity, we have to lower the cost of the material production and employ earth-abundant materials."
Tao has a separate SusChEM grant for his portion of the sulfurized hematite project, which will also involve connecting American Indian students and communities in Arizona with educational opportunities. Zhang will incorporate outreach through projects at TexPREP, a summer camp for seventh through 10th graders held at UT Arlington each year.
|Contact: Traci Peterson|
University of Texas at Arlington