Skip over navigation

Featured Event

3/21 - Student-Invited Lecture (physical): Jeffrey Grossman, MIT

Jeffrey Grossman - speaker's webpage
Department of Materials Science and Engineering
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

New Materials for Solar Capture and Storage

One of the greatest challenges of the 21st century will be to understand, invent, and engineer new mechanisms and materials for energy production, energy storage and energy transport to counter the deleterious environmental and political impacts of our long-standing reliance on fossil fuels. Current renewable energy conversion and storage technologies are too expensive, too inefficient, or both, substantially limiting their use and global impact. At the core of the energy challenge is a materials choice: many of the key mechanisms that convert and store energy are dominated by the intrinsic properties of the active materials involved. Our imperative is thus to predict, identify and manufacture new materials and designs as comprehensively and rapidly as possible, as the pressing challenge of producing and storing energy renewably calls for game- changing leaps forward rather than our current path of incremental advances. Toward that end, we use both computational and experimental approaches that serve to elucidate fundamental mechanisms as well as predict new concepts and solutions. Two examples of such an approach for the design of new materials for solar capture and storage will be presented. First, I will discuss the design of an unconventional platform for closed-cycle solar thermal fuels that takes advantage of rigid nanoscale templates to tune chemical interactions between bound photoisomers, leading to energy densities comparable to Li-ion batteries. Second, I will present our work on the design of photovoltaic (PV) active layers comprised exclusively of non-polymer based carbon nano-structures, and the prediction layered materials that could lead to "ultra-thin thin-film" PV.