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The DOE Science News Source is a Newswise initiative to promote research news from the Office of Science of the DOE to the public and news media.
  • 2017-10-04 16:05:57
  • Article ID: 682308

Speeding Materials Discovery Puts Solar Fuels on the Fast Track to Commercial Viability

New materials could turn water into the fuel of the future.

  • Credit: Image courtesy of J. Gregoire, Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis, California Institute of Technology

    Researchers are using a new high-throughput method of identifying new materials, from thousands of possibilities, that can turn water into the fuel of the future.

The Science

Solar fuels, a goal of clean-energy research, are created using only sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide. Different solar fuels can be produced, including hydrogen. In just two years, a process that was developed by Molecular Foundry staff and users has nearly doubled the number of materials with the potential for using sunlight to produce fuel.

The Impact

To create practical solar fuels, scientists are trying to develop low-cost and efficient materials that perform the necessary chemistry using only visible light as an energy source. The team’s approach promises to speed the discovery of materials for the commercially viable generation of solar fuels. These fuels could replace coal, oil, and other fossil fuels.

Summary

Pure hydrogen is highly flammable, making it an ideal fuel. If you could find a way to extract that hydrogen from water using sunlight, then, you would have a plentiful and renewable energy source. The problem, however, is that water molecules do not simply break down when sunlight shines on them—if they did, the oceans would not cover three-fourths of the planet. Instead, they need a little help from a solar-powered catalyst. Over the past four decades, researchers identified only 16 of these solar-powered catalysts, or “photoanodes” that create electrons when light shines on them. Now, using a new high-throughput method of identifying new materials, a team of researchers has found 12 promising new photoanode materials. Previous materials discovery processes relied on cumbersome testing of individual compounds to assess their potential for use in specific applications. Instead, the scientists combined computational and experimental approaches by first mining a materials database for potentially useful compounds, and then rapidly testing the most promising candidates using high-throughput experimentation. Computational resources at the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC) performed hundreds of comprehensive high-throughput theoretical calculations, and software and expertise at the Molecular Foundry enabled the scientists to analyze and understand the most promising candidates. The new method was developed through a partnership between the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis (JCAP) and Berkeley Lab’s Materials Project.

Funding

Computational work was supported by the Materials Project Predictive Modeling Center through the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Office of Science, Office of Basic Energy Sciences, Materials Sciences and Engineering Division, under contract DE-AC02-05CH11231. Experimental work was performed by the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis, a DOE Energy Innovation Hub, supported through the DOE Office of Science (award DE-SC0004993). Work at the Molecular Foundry was supported by the DOE Office of Science, Office of Basic Energy Sciences under contract DE-AC02-05CH11231. Computational resources were also provided by the DOE through the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center, a DOE Office of Science user facility supported by the DOE Office of Science under contract DE-AC02-05CH11231.

Publication

Q. Yan, J. Yu, S.K. Suram, L. Zhou, A. Shinde, P.F. Newhouse, W. Chen, G. Li, K.A. Persson, J.M. Gregoire, and J.B. Neaton, “Solar fuels photoanode materials discovery by integrating high-throughput theory and experiment.” Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences of the United States of America 114(12), 3040-3043(2017). [DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1619940114]

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Opening Windows for New Spintronic Studies

A surprising discovery could potentially offer major advantages in speed, heat dissipation and power consumption in electronic devices.

Sunlight Stimulates Microbial Respiration of Carbon in Surface Waters

This research offers new information to understand the role of microorganisms in elemental cycling in the Arctic.

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Using advanced computational methods, University of Wisconsin-Madison materials scientists have discovered new materials that could bring widespread commercial use of solid oxide fuel cells closer to reality.

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A team of researchers from Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (Berkeley Lab) and Ohio State University have generated 3-D images from 129 individual molecules of flexible DNA origami particles. Their work provides the first experimental verification of the theoretical model of DNA origami. https://newscenter.lbl.gov/2018/02/22/imaging-individual-flexible-dna-building-blocks-3-d

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Berkeley Lab "Minimalist Machine Learning" Algorithms Analyze Images From Very Little Data

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ORNL Wins Four FLC Technology Transfer Awards

Four technologies developed at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory have earned 2018 Excellence in Technology Transfer Awards from the Federal Laboratory Consortium for Technology Transfer (FLC).

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, OHSU Create Joint Research Co-Laboratory to Advance Precision Medicine

News Release PORTLAND, Ore. -- Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and OHSU today announced a joint collaboration to improve patient care by focusing research on highly complex sets of biomedical data, and the tools to interpret them.The OHSU-PNNL Precision Medicine Innovation Co-Laboratory, called PMedIC, will provide a comprehensive ecosystem for scientists to utilize integrated 'omics, data science and imaging technologies in their research in order to advance precision medicine -- an approach to disease treatment that takes into account individual variability in genes, environment and lifestyle for each person.

The Mysteries of Plasma and Solar Eruptions Earn PPPL Graduate an Astrophysics Prize

Article describes dissertation award for graduate of Princeton University Department of Astrophysical Sciences.

45-Year-Old Telescope Gets a Makeover to Demystify Dark Energy

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MSU Uses $3 Million NASA Grant to Find Better Ways to Regulate Dams

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Harker School Wins Second Consecutive SLAC Regional DOE Science Bowl

Twenty-four teams from 16 Bay Area high schools faced off Feb. 3 in the SLAC Regional DOE Science Bowl, a series of fast-paced question-and-answer matches that test knowledge in biology, chemistry, physics, earth and space sciences, energy and math. The competition is hosted annually by the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.

David Asner Named Deputy Associate Laboratory Director and Head of the Instrumentation Division in Brookhaven Lab's Nuclear and Particle Physics Directorate

A particle physicist with extensive leadership and management experience, Asner will help expand a portfolio of physics programs and oversee instrumentation research and development.

UIC to Provide Energy-Saving 'Kits' with $3.1m in Funding From ComEd

The University of Illinois at Chicago's Energy Resources Center has received funding from ComEd to provide energy-efficient LED light bulbs, advanced power strips, and educational material to income-qualified participants in northern Illinois.As part of a $3.1 million year-long investment, the utility company will fund the Low Income Kit Energy (LIKE) program, allowing engineers at UIC's Energy Resources Center to provide energy-saving kits to 35,000 eligible individuals and/or families.

DOE's HPC4Manufacturing Program Seeks Industry Proposals

The Department of Energy (DOE) on Feb. 1 announced up to $3 million will be made available to U.S. manufacturers for public/private projects aimed at applying high performance computing to industry challenges for the advancement of energy innovation.

Elke-Caroline Aschenauer Awarded Prestigious Humboldt Research Award

UPTON, NY -- Elke-Caroline Aschenauer, a senior physicist at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory, has been awarded a Humboldt Research Award for her contributions to the field of experimental nuclear physics. This prestigious international award--issued by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in Bonn, Germany--comes with a prize of EUR60,000 (more than $70,000 U.


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Sunlight Stimulates Microbial Respiration of Carbon in Surface Waters

This research offers new information to understand the role of microorganisms in elemental cycling in the Arctic.

Defects and Surface Reactions Boost Batteries

Defect-enhanced transport and complex phase growth are changing design rules for lithium-ion batteries.

Remembering Really Fast

Colossal magnetoresistance at terahertz frequencies in thin composites boosts novel memory devices operated at extremely high speed.

Tuning Quantum Light Sources

First known material capable of emitting single photons at room temperature and telecom wavelengths.

Working Night and Day

Day-night changes in light and temperature power a low-cost material assembly that mimics biological self-copying.

A Nanowire Array to Screen Drugs for Neurodegenerative Diseases

Engineers develop wires that penetrate neurons and measure their activity

Squeezing Into the Best Shape

Gel uses nanoparticles for on-demand control of droplet shapes, of interest for energy storage and catalysis.

Forcing the Hand of Elusive Electrons

Current generated when light hits a material reveals electrons behaving like an elusive particle.

Single Atoms in Nano-Cages

Tiny cages can trap and release inert argon gas atoms, allowing their further study and providing a new way to capture rare gases.

Unwavering Juggler with Three Extra Electrons

Simulations discovered the first molecule with three extra electrons and extraordinary stability.


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