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Friday, Sept. 19, 2014
 

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Celebrate Princeton Invention: Andrew Bocarsly

Andrew Bocarsly

Chemistry professor Andrew Bocarsly keeps watch as carbon dioxide and water are converted into methanol and oxygen with visible light-emitting diodes, which are used to simulate sunlight in the laboratory. (Photo: Brian Wilson)

Name: Andrew Bocarsly, professor of chemistry

Invention:
Electrochemical and photoelectrochemical conversion of carbon dioxide to organic products

What it does: Carried out in a special photoelectrochemical cell, this process enables the conversion of carbon dioxide into organic fuels, such as methanol, using visible light and water.

Inspiration:
Interest in the conversion of carbon dioxide into usable fuels was sparked during the 1973 oil crisis, but the amount of energy required to activate the reaction presented a tremendous hurdle. Bocarsly and his colleagues first published a novel way to lower this barrier in 1993, which went largely unnoticed for a decade until concerns about global warming and energy security caused a resurgence of interest in the technology.

Collaborators:
Emily Barton-Cole, a 2009 Ph.D. recipient, graduate students Katherine Keets and Elizabeth Zeitler, postdoctoral research associate Amanda Morris

Commercialization status:
Liquid Light Inc., established in October 2009, has licensed this process from Princeton and is making rapid progress toward the establishment of a viable technology.

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