Light-Driven Reactions Now More Efficient

The new process uses light to do photochemistry instead of the traditional method of using heat to do chemistry.Image: Emory University

The new process uses light to do photochemistry instead of the traditional method of using heat to do chemistry.
Image: Emory University

Scientists from Emory University are opening yet another door to renewable energy efforts. Their new way of performing light-driven reactions based on plasmon—the motion of free electrons that strongly absorb and scatter light—is said to be much more effective than previous processes.

“We’ve discovered a new and unexpected way to use plasmonic metal that holds potential for use in solar energy conversion,” says Tim Lian, professor of physical chemistry at Emory University and the lead author of the research. “We’ve shown that we can harvest the high energy electrons excited by light in plasmon and then use this energy to do chemistry.”

To get a better understanding of surface plasmonic, just think of how a cathedral’s stained glass windows absorb and shatter light.

Researchers involved in this study believe their plasmonic centered process could apply to efforts in electronics and renewable energy. Using plasmon could potentially make light-driven charge transfer for solar energy conversion much more efficient.


Japan Turns Golf Courses into Solar Farms

It’s all about repurposing. At least, that looks to be the case for Japan’s energy grid.

Beth Schademann, ECS’s Publications Specialist, recently came across a Business Insider article detailing Japan’s initiative to turn abandoned golf courses into solar power plants.

Japan’s Kyocera Corporation is taking the unused green space and making clean, renewable solar farms. They’re starting off big with a 23 megawatt solar plant that will produce enough energy to power around 8,100 households.

And they’re not stopping there. After their first project goes live in 2017, the company will go full force into their 92 megawatt solar plant project that is expected to power over 30,000 households.

Japan’s abandoned golf courses are prime real estate for solar farms, and there’s no shortage of potential here.


The development of ultralight, ultrathin solar cells is on the horizon due to a new semiconductor call phosphorene.

A team of researchers from Australian National University have developed an atom-thick layer of black phosphorus crystals through a process that utilizes sticky tape.

“Because phosphorene is so thin and light, it creates possibilities for making lots of interesting devices, such as LEDs or solar cells,” said lead researcher Dr. Yuerui (Larry) Lu.

The fabrication of this phosphorene is similar to that of graphene, bringing the new material to a thickness of just 0.5 nanometers. With phosphorene’s novel properties, doors are opening for a new generation of solar cells and LEDs.


Member Spotlight – Chennupati Jagadish

jagadishECS Fellow Chennupati Jagadish has been awarded the IEEE Nanotechnology Pioneer Award for his outstanding contributions to compound semiconductor nanowire and quantum dot optoelectronics.

Dr. Jagadish is a Laureate Fellow and Distinguished Professor at the Australian National University, where he has made major advances in compound semiconductor quantum dot and nanowire growth techniques and optoelectronic devices.

Previously, Dr. Jagadish was awarded the ECS Electronics and Photonics Division Award for his excellence in electronics research outstanding technical contribution to the field of electronics science.

Throughout his scientific career, Dr. Jagadish has published more than 620 research papers—some of which can be found in the Digital Library—and has 5 U.S. patents.

Some of Dr. Jagadish’s current research focuses on nanostructured photovoltaics, which provides novel concepts to produce a more efficient solar cell.

Researchers aim to assess the economic and technical feasibility of these luminescent solar concentrators. Image: Eindhoven University of Technology

Researchers aim to assess the economic and technical feasibility of these luminescent solar concentrators.
Image: University of Technology

The Netherlands is making a push toward renewable energy sources with their new testing of solar energy generating noise barriers, which will be installed along highways. Researchers are currently testing the first phase of these energy storage devices, which generate electricity using solar cells integrated in noise barriers.

Researchers from Eindhoven University of Technology have implemented luminescent solar concentrators (LSCs) that are aesthetically attractive and should lead to promising energy efficiency levels.

“Further benefits are that the principle used is low cost, they can be produced in any desired, regular color, is robust, and the LSCs will even work when the sky is cloudy. That means it offers tremendous potential,” said Michael Debije of Eindhoven University of Technology’s Department of Chemical Engineering and Chemistry.


The new arrangement of photovoltaic materials includes bundles of polymer donors (green rods) and neatly organized fullerene acceptors (purple, tan).Image: UCLA

The new arrangement of photovoltaic materials includes bundles of polymer donors (green rods) and neatly organized fullerene acceptors (purple, tan).
Image: UCLA

A team of UCLA scientists are delivering good news on the solar energy front with the development of their new energy storage technology that could change the way scientists think about solar cell design.

Taking a little inspiration from the naturally occurring process of photosynthesis, the researchers devised a new arrangement of solar cell ingredients to make a more efficient cell.

“In photosynthesis, plants that are exposed to sunlight use carefully organized nanoscale structures within their cells to rapidly separate charges — pulling electrons away from the positively charged molecule that is left behind, and keeping positive and negative charges separated. That separation is the key to making the process so efficient,” said Sarah Tolbert, senior author of this research and published ECS author.

PS: Check out Tolbert’s recently published open access paper in the Journal of The Electrochemical Society entitled, “The Development of Pseudocapacitive Properties in Nanosized-MoO2.”

The currently dilemma in solar cell design revolves around developing a product that is both efficient and affordable. While conventional silicon works rather well, it is too expensive to be practical on a large scale. More engineers and researchers have been moving to replace silicon with plastic, but that leads to efficiency levels taking a hit.


100% Renewable Energy Vision

Can the United States convert to 100 percent clean, renewable energy by 2050? Stanford University’s Mark Z. Jacobson and U.C. Berkeley’s Mark Delucchi certainly think so. In fact, they’ve laid out a very comprehensive plan to do just that.

The two researchers have recently published a study detailing the viability of the U.S. converting to 100 percent green energy. They’re calling for aggressive changes in both infrastructure and energy consumption on a state-by-state level to achieve this goal. The new study shows that this transition from fossil fuels to renewable resources is not only technically possible with already existing technologies, but it’s also economically feasible.

“The main barriers are social, political and getting industries to change. One way to overcome the barriers is to inform people about what is possible,” Jacobson said. “By showing that it’s technologically and economically possible, this study could reduce the barriers to a large scale transformation.”



Small-scale device provides easy “plug-and-play” testing of molecules and materials for artificial photosynthesis and fuel cell technologies.
Image: Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis

Scientists have developed a small-scale device that can aid in the advancement of artificial photosynthesis and fuel cell technologies.

The new device provides an easy “plug-and-play” microfluidic test-bed to evaluate materials for electrochemical energy conversion systems. Researchers will now be able to test small amounts of molecules and materials before producing a full-scale device to insure new devices will provide high energy density.

Sophia Haussener and Joel Ager, published ECS authors and past members, were two of the researchers that worked on the project for the U.S. Department of Energy. (Check out Haussener’s past research on photoelectrochemical water-splitting and Ager’s work in electron diffraction.)

This from U.S. Department of Energy:

As all functional components in this microfluidic test-bed can be easily exchanged, the performance of various components in the integrated system can be quickly assessed and tailored for optimization. The initial experiments and modeling were performed for water electrolysis; however, the system can be readily adapted to study proposed artificial photosynthesis and fuel cell technologies.

Read the full article here.

The researchers believe that this technology will be easily adaptable to other technologies, such as solar-fuel generators. Development of such devices may significantly accelerate due to the new ability to assess performance at an early stage.

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Deadline for Submitting Abstracts
May 1, 2015

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You won’t want to miss the

– Electrochemical Energy Summit 2015 –

Theme: Solar Critical Issues and Renewable Energy

Held during the 228th ECS Meeting, the fifth international ECS Electrochemical Energy Summit is designed to foster an exchange between leading policy makers and energy experts about society needs and technological energy solutions.


  • Fluid Interface Reactions, Structures, and Transport Center (FIRST)
    David Wesolowski, Oak Ridge National Laboratory
  • NorthEast Center for Chemical Energy Storage (NECCES)
    M. Stanley Whittingham, Binghamton University
  • Center for Mesoscale Transport Properties (m2m)
    Esther Takeuchi, Stony Brook University
  • Nanostructures for Electrical Energy Storage (NEES)
    Gary Rubloff, University of Maryland
  • Center for Electrochemical Energy Science (CEES)
    Paul Fenter, Argonne National Laboratory
  • Joint Center for Energy Storage Research (JCESR)
    George Crabtree, Director
  • Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis (JCAP)
    Harry Atwater, Director


Earth Day: Science, Climate, and the Future

The modern environmental movement was born 45 years ago today. A small group of twenty-somethings with a passion for the environment rallied together to create a more earth-conscious society, establishing what has become known as Earth Day.

The original Earth Day focused primarily on the pollution issue, but this year’s Earth Day is heavily directed towards climate change and the energy infrastructure.

While there may be a war on science happening with people and politicians alike dismissing climate change as mere myth, scientists conducting research in the field state that evidence for warming of the climate system is unequivocal.

When looking at climate change on a global level, the numbers speak for themselves.

  • Carbon dioxide levels are at their highest in 650,000 years
  • Nine of the 10 warmest years on record have occurred since 2000
  • Land ice is dropping by 258 billion metric tons per year
  • Sea levels have risen nearly 7” over the past 100 years


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