Sunlight-driven hydrogen formation by membrane-supported photoelectrochemical water splitting



In a March seminar hosted by the MIT Energy Initiative, Nathan Lewis of the California Institute of Technology discussed the research frontier involved with the development of an integrated system based on semiconductor nanowires that act as artificial photosynthetic pigments, which bridge a membrane and are coupled to catalysts that both reduce water to hydrogen and oxidize water to oxygen. All these components in an artificial photosynthetic system must work together and in synergy for the entire process to be successful. Lewis’ research efforts have focused primarily on the development and implementation of semiconductor nanorod arrays that can provide the ability to use impure, low-cost, stable inorganic light absorbers in the presence of organic, plastic, processable polymer membranes, to provide the capture and conversion steps and couple to the catalytic steps needed for a solar-based water-splitting system.

This talk was presented on March 10, 2009 as part of the MITEI Seminar Series.

About the speaker:

Dr. Nathan Lewis, George L. Argyros Professor of Chemistry, has been on the faculty at the California Institute of Technology since 1988 and has served as Professor since 1991. He has also served as the Principal Investigator of the Beckman Institute Molecular Materials Resource Center at Caltech since 1992. From 1981 to 1986, he was on the faculty at Stanford, as an assistant professor from 1981 to 1985 and as a tenured Associate Professor from 1986 to 1988. Dr. Lewis received his Ph.D in Chemistry from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dr. Lewis has been an Alfred P. Sloan Fellow, a Camille and Henry Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar, and a Presidential Young Investigator. He received the Fresenius Award in 1990, the ACS Award in Pure Chemistry in 1991, the Orton Memorial Lecture award in 2003, the Princeton Environmental Award in 2003 and the Michael Faraday Medal of the Royal Society of Electrochemistry in 2008. He is currently the Editor-in- Chief of Energy & Environmental Science. He has published over 300 papers and has supervised approximately 60 graduate students and postdoctoral associates.

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The MIT Energy Initiative is MIT’s hub for energy research, education, and outreach. Learn more at energy.mit.edu.

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