In addition to conversion of solar energy to electricity, which is a highly evolved scientific and commercial enterprise, efficient and cost-effective conversion of solar energy directly to useful chemicals and fuels could lead to a significant reduction in fossil hydrocarbon use. To do this efficiently one needs to design and construct materials and systems with appropriate dielectric properties, structures and architectures, and interfaces of the appropriate relative band properties. Although the problem seems formidable, remarkable progress has recently been achieved using surface plasmons, which live for a few femtoseconds and then dephase producing a shower of energetic electrons and holes. By fabricating appropriately nanostructured devices that allow a reasonable fraction of these hot carriers to be harvested before they thermalize, the hot electrons can be transferred to appropriate catalyst systems and the device can be used to carry out light-enabled redox chemistry. In this presentation, I will present and discuss several examples of photocatalysis using these mechanisms.
robert.mcmichael [at] nist.gov (Robert McMichael), 301-975-5121
Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
University of California, Santa Barbara