Solar Electricity and Fuels
Objective: ISEN will develop the next generation of innovative, scalable solar technologies and accelerate the commercialization of solar liquid fuels.
The cost-effective integration of innovative solar technologies into mainstream use will have the same sweeping global socioeconomic impact as has access to the internet.
Next generation light capture materials will transform everyday objects – windows, paint, clothing – into solar energy devices. Storing solar energy by using it to directly produce liquid fuels from carbon dioxide – just as plant life does – will provide high-density, carbon-neutral fuels that will be distributed using the world’s existing petroleum infrastructure. Solar electricity and fuels research conducted today at ISEN and its partner laboratories will lead to the ultimate environmentally benign fuel of tomorrow’s economic engine.
Leading these efforts is the Argonne-Northwestern Solar Energy Research (ANSER) Center, a US Department of Energy (DOE) Energy Frontier Research Center, and the Solar Fuels Institute (SOFI), a Northwestern-led global public-private consortium united behind the goal of developing and commercializing a liquid solar fuel.
TRANSLATE fundamental discovery and characterization of new classes of materials for solar capture, with a particular focus on perovskite and organic, polymer-based materials approaches, into applied innovation.
EXPAND the global consortium of university, national lab, and industry partners of the Solar Fuels Institute to develop and scale dramatically more efficient light-driven catalysts and related technologies for solar liquid fuels production by 2030.
COLLABORATE with researchers at Argonne National Laboratory, accessing world-class user instrumentation, computational facilities, and complementary materials science, chemical engineering, and chemistry expertise.
WHY IT MATTERS:
- Solar energy is the most abundant energy resource on earth, and the only renewable resource with the capacity to meet our growing needs.
- Solar energy can be effectively disaggregated from a centralized grid, with important socioeconomic implications for the developing world.
- A drop-in, carbon-neutral solar fuel can leverage existing distribution and utilization infrastructure, with an energy-density that’s adaptable and cost efficient with transportation and storage requirements.
- In the US, the solar industry grew 20% in 2015, or twelve times faster than the overall economy. Employment in solar now surpasses oil and gas extraction and is more than three times the size of the coal mining workforce.