On behalf of the Initiative for Sustainability and Energy at Northwestern (ISEN) and the Argonne-Northwestern Solar Energy Research Center, I am delighted to welcome you to the 5th annual ANSER Solar Energy Symposium, titled Solar Fuels: Challenges and Opportunities.
Harnessing the power of the sun to produce electricity has become wide-spread reality. Photovoltaic solar cells are an increasingly common sight in our daily lives. However, solar electricity is only one thrust of current cutting-edge research in this field. While electricity is critical for sustaining many of our needs for energy it provides insufficient and inadequate solutions for transportation, i.e. fuels for cars, trucks and airplanes. New synthetic routes for these transportation fuels must be created and developed to sustain global economic progress and worldwide population growth. Solar electricity is hampered by the fact that the sun does not shine for 24 hours on the same spot and that the energy must therefore be intermittently stored in batteries. What is the problem with current batteries? About half a ton of the best batteries available today have an energy equivalent of about 2 gallons(!) of gasoline. This comparison dramatically highlights the need for producing fuels directly from the sun.
These so-called Solar Fuels are not derived from plants and other living organisms. They are synthetically produced by exploring efficient, earth-abundant catalysts that can convert sunlight and water into hydrogen, and ultimately, combine the latter with CO2 to obtain combustible liquids that drive our vehicles. Developing an efficient supply system for solar fuels requires the build-up of a new solar fuel industry, similar to the great industrial productions lines that manifested the birth of the modern petrochemical industry. The renowned speakers at the 2012 Symposium will present their research results and focus on the fundamental scientific challenges that need to be overcome in order to accomplish this perhaps greatest goal of our times.
Please join us for the entire day, or just for one talk - whatever your schedule may permit. I hope that you will arrive with an open mind, ask questions while you are here, and leave feeling engaged and informed.
We look forward to seeing you on April 26 and 27!
Michael R. Wasielewski
Clare Hamilton Hall Professor of Chemistry
Director, ANSER Center