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Understanding the science of solar-based energy: more researchers are better than one
Date:9/2/2008

View a video of MIT scientists explaining how they recently discovered a catalyst that produces oxygen gas from water.

With the assistance of a five-year $20 million award from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) Chemical Bonding Center (CBC) project, called "Powering the Planet," will increase the number of its collaborators to fulfill its goal of efficiently and economically converting solar energy and water into hydrogen and oxygen fuels.

The hydrogen and oxygen gases produced will be usable by a fuel cell, where they will react to reform water, generating electricity for powering an electric car or other devices. The gases may also be used as a source of energy after the sun goes down, and will generate a carbon-neutral or oil-free source of energy scalable to meet future global energy demands.

One of the center's key goals is to enhance U.S. economic competitiveness in the area of renewable energy.

"We have a very talented and dedicated group of students who are ready and able to tackle the fundamental chemistry problems that must be solved before it will be feasible to produce clean solar fuels on a large scale," said Harry B. Gray, Arnold O. Beckman professor of chemistry at Caltech and leader of the CBC. "We already have several industrial partners, and we intend to add more, as we want to move the new materials and processes invented by our center into the commercial arena as rapidly as possible."

More than 17 researchers and their students from 12 institutions located throughout the U.S. and Switzerland participate in the CBC.

The center is focusing its research efforts on developing a nanoscale-sized system that captures sunlight and converts it to an electrical charge. The interaction of the system's electrical charge and an oxygen catalyst produce oxygen gas and positively charged hydrogen ions or protons from water. The electrical ch
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Contact: Jennifer A. Grasswick
jgrasswi@nsf.gov
703-292-4972
National Science Foundation
Source:Eurekalert  

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