CCSER will be initially focused on three efforts:
Solar Electric Generation
Photovoltaic conversion, the direct generation of electricity from sunlight,
is a clean and inexhaustible source of electricity generation. Photovoltaics
(or PV cells) are now commercially available, but the cost per watt is still
much too high for wide-scale practical implementation, and challenges exist
in scaling this technology to the terawatt scale. We are addressing these challenges
by designing new materials and structures with potential for very high conversion
efficiency and which can be produced by inexpensive manufacturing processes.
We are also advancing designs that allow us to use the entire solar spectrum
and to increase conversion efficiency.
Solar-Driven Fuel Synthesis
CCSER's second focus is the conversion of sunlight into chemical fuels, an
example of which is the splitting of water to make hydrogen. Although the electrolysis
of water is straightforward, currently available methods require a power source
and a platinum catalyst. By using solar energy to replace conventional electrical
power sources that ultimately use fossil fuel, and by developing alternative
catalysts to platinum (which is expensive and scarce), CCSER researchers will
set the stage for new technologies for solar-driven fuel synthesis that are
scalable to the terawatt scale.
Fuel Cells for Renewable Fuel Use
Chemical fuels enable energy storage, but require methods for clean and efficient
conversion to electricity on demand. Therefore, the third focus of CCSER is
on fuel cells, where again, a key objective is to develop alternatives to platinum
as a catalyst for conversion of renewably generated hydrogen or hydrocarbon
fuels. This is made possible through the discovery by CCSER researchers of
a new class of fuel-cell electrolytes, solid acids, that can operate at temperatures
higher than polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells, but far lower than solid
oxide fuel cells.