The sun is a boundless source of clean energy, but it goes down every night. Researchers are trying to design solar-driven molecular machines that could be used on a global scale to store solar energy by splitting water into its elemental components, hydrogen and oxygen. Hydrogen is a clean fuel that could be used directly or combined with carbon dioxide to produce methanol, a liquid fuel. Dr. Gray's research team is investigating the structures and mechanisms of hydrogen-evolving catalysts made from abundant Earth elements. They also are employing pulsed laser ablation for synthesis of metal-oxide nanoparticles that will be deployed as catalysts on photoanodes such as tungsten oxide. To aid this research, they have recruited hundreds of students to join a Solar Army whose mission is the discovery of mixed metal oxides for testing on the photoanodes of solar water splitters.
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Arnold O. Beckman Professor of Chemistry
California Institute of Technology