Researchers from around the world had the opportunity to network and share ideas at the 2014 Solar Fuels Gordon Research Conference.

 

Topics ranged from light capture and utilization to water oxidation catalysis to biological and biomimetic proton reduction catalysis. SOFI was a contributor at the conference, and has forged a new collaborative partnership with the UK-based Solar Fuels Network. The two organizations will encourage members to develop collaborative projects, and they can submit research proposals to SOFI and SFN for joint funding. During the workshop, SOFI and SFN members discussed other potential joint activities, such as teleconferences, webinars and blogs. Informal discussions after the workshop between researchers led to a number of potential UK-US collaborative projects.

Imagine over 400 of the brightest minds in every field of solar fuels research together in one place, exchanging ideas and discussing the latest advances in research.

 

This is the vision of SOFI and the Swedish Consortium for Artificial Photosynthesis for their first international solar fuels conference, called Solar Fuels I, which will be held in Uppsala, Sweden from April 26 – May 1, 2015. “The conference is unique because they want to expand the scope,” says Dick Co, who is part of the international committee for Solar Fuels I. “They want to be inclusive of ideas and processes that are different,” Co says, emphasizing this diversity of fields and disciplines is something that no other solar fuels conference covers yet. This collaboration between different fields could lead to breakthroughs. “It creates more cross talk between different disciplines,” Co says, “then you see novel approaches.”

Charles Dismukes, professor of chemistry at Rutgers University, a SOFI member institution, is pursuing a promising industry collaboration.

 

Dismukes plans to work with Proton Onsite, a company that manufactures hydrogen, nitrogen and purified air generators, to test novel catalysts for solar fuels technology. “It’s really an ideal collaboration,” Dismukes says. His group at Rutgers will be providing the catalysts, while Proton Onsite will provide the electrolyzer, a device necessary for testing the catalysts. “SOFI provided the mechanism for collaboration,” Dismukes explains. Dismukes’ project is a public representation of SOFI’s mission to drive collaboration across organizations. He and SOFI hope it will positively impact federal funding for solar fuels technology. Dismukes is pursuing an NSF grant, as well as funding from Rutgers to support the project. “I’ve used the SOFI program as leverage to seek federal funding,” he says. “What SOFI does an absolutely superb job of is communicating the urgency and the need for solar fuels. We look to them for leadership in that.”

What if we could harness our collective ingenuity

to solve our global energy challenge?

 

Artificial Photosynthesis for a Clean Energy Future

Academic research supported by SOFI will drive industry R&D and the creation of commercially-viable products.

THE PRODUCT

SOFI's goal is the development of efficient, cost effective photocatalytic systems that use the energy of sunlight to produce liquid fuels.

THE METHOD

SOFI will provide global research institutions with support and cutting edge opportunities for collaboration, fostering the next generation of solar fuels research to address the energy needs of the 21st century.

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 Small grey arrows indicate breakthroughs and milestones that positively influence adjacent fields.

SCIENCE BASED ON A MODEL PROVEN BY NATURE

By mimicking one of nature's most fundamental processes – photosynthesis – SOFI scientists and engineers aim to fuel the planet sustainably using the ultimate energy source: the sun. We’ll convert the sun's energy into clean fuels by following nature's photosynthetic blueprint. 

LIGHT CAPTURE

 

Natural photosynthesis begins with the capture and absorption of sunlight. That light energy is then transported and used to split charges. The charges are further transferred to catalytic sites to perform the fuel forming reactions.

 

SOFI scientists aim to convert the sun’s energy into clean fuels by following nature’s photosynthetic blueprint. SOFI researchers are using a variety of state-of-the-art methods, such as molecular sensitizers, nanoarchitectures, organic dyes, semiconductors, and plasmonic devices, to enhance the capture and utilization of light energy. Scientists are developing artificial light-harvesting systems to span the entire spectrum that is useful for solar fuel production (400 nm − 1000 nm). They are implementing novel designs to efficiently transport the absorbed energy to artificial reaction centers that then separate the negative and positive charges. The photoinduced electron transfer events can then drive the various fuel forming reactions pursued by SOFI researchers.

WATER SPLITTING

 

All fuel-forming reactions and catalysis involve moving electrons from one species to another, a.k.a. redox chemistry (combination of “reduction” and “oxidation”).

 

 

In order to store the energy from the sun in the form of fuels, researchers will need a clean source of electrons. Nature’s source of electrons in photosynthesis comes from water. Electrons can be derived from the conversion of water molecules into their constituent oxygen gas and positive hydrogen ions (oxidation). This process, however, is very difficult, and requires special substances— catalysts— to facilitate that reaction. SOFI researchers are developing new catalysts that use earth-abundant elements to split water, either by an electrical potential or by a light-driven process.

CO2 CATALYSIS

 

Humans are emitting carbon dioxide (CO2) at an unprecedented rate by burning fossil fuels for transportation and electricity generation, which is driving global climate change.

 

 

Photosynthesis originally converted that CO2 into the organic matter, which, over millions of years, turned into the coal and oil we are extracting from the ground today. Recycling CO2 (obtained from flue gas from smokestacks or extracted from ambient air) to produce liquid fuels can provide near-term solutions that fit within the existing energy infrastructure and can mitigate the negative effects of dirty energy sources. Of particular interest is the reduction of CO2 to CO, which, as a component of synthesis gas (syngas), can be converted to methane, synthetic petroleum, or other liquid fuels using commercially mature technologies. SOFI researchers are developing new catalysts that waste less energy, are more efficient, and have greater longevity.

A GLOBAL NETWORK FOR GLOBAL CHANGE THROUGH
TEAM SCIENCE & COLLABORATIVE RESEARCH

Since February 2012, universities, government labs, academic institutions, private
corporations and non-profit organizations have come together to realize SOFI's vision.

  SUPPORTING MEMBERS

  CORE MEMBERS

  PROSPECTIVE MEMBERS

A GLOBAL NETWORK FOR GLOBAL CHANGE THROUGH
TEAM SCIENCE & COLLABORATIVE RESEARCH

Since February 2012, universities, government labs, academic institutions, private
corporations and non-profit organizations have come together to realize SOFI's vision.

Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services Ltd., Mumbai, India
Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden
Northwestern University, Evanston, IL, USA
Total, Courbevoie, France
Korea Center for Artificial Photosynthesis, Seoul, Korea
CEA-Grenoble, Grenoble, France
Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, USA
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland, WA, USA
Max Plank Institute for Chemical Energy Conversion, Muelheim, Germany
Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis (JCAP), Pasadena, CA, USA
Center for Bio-Inspired Solar Fuel Production (BISFuel), Phoenix, AZ, USA
Brookhaven National Laboratory, Brookhaven, NY, USA
Argonne National Laboratory, Lemont, IL, USA
UNC Solar Fuels EFRC, Chapel Hill, NC, USA
University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa
Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel

Creating a Solar Fuels Knowledge Map to
Accelerate Discovery and Shorten Product Lead Time

The SOFI Knowledge Map will aggregate critical information and data using sophisticated modern tools to guide vision and planning of this industry beyond what current patent and publication frameworks can provide.

QUESTIONS

We acknowledge the complexity of such an undertaking and recognize the many technological, commercial, institutional, political and even behavioral hurdles to meaningful progress. Here are important questions we've addressed. Email us to ask your own.

WHAT WILL A SOLAR FUEL DEVICE LOOK LIKE?

Simple answer: we don’t really know yet. The eventual solar fuels device can range from a portable device that provides personalized power to a utility plant that operates on the multi-MW scale.

Imagine a unit that sits on the roof of a home and is driven by sunlight to convert water and ambient CO2 into a storable liquid fuel. Or imagine a factory that produces artificial aviation fuel while leaving no carbon footprint. The outcomes of this technological revolution will depend on the development of current science and the discovery of new materials and processes.

How is SOFI different from other science groups?

We are global, and we want to transform how academic research interfaces with the modern world. Solar fuel is a nascent technology today, and we believe government-funded academic labs

across the globe are in the best position to advance discoveries through translational research with industry input. To accomplish that, SOFI will use digital collaborative tools and electronic lab notebooks that incentivize the sharing of knowledge, transforming today’s publication-based academia (slide decks, blog posts, datasets, and software) into an organized, accessible database of information. It is also SOFI’s goal to capture and publish failed/null results so that they can be cited and accelerate progress.

Why haven't I heard about this before?

A solar fuel, a.k.a. artificial or industrial photosynthesis, is a complex and ambitious vision. It requires mastery of technical areas that are being developed today and many more that have yet to be discovered.

The U.S. Department of Energy has invested over $300 million in these efforts, while companies from ExxonMobil to Panasonic to Toyota and many international labs are actively pursuing different solar fuel pathways. Bypassing "archived sunlight" in fossil fuels, once a pipe dream, is rapidly becoming a reality. SOFI is here to raise awareness and shorten lead time.

What do members get from being a part of SOFI?

Members are the core of the SOFI initiative. Academic and Corporate Membership is by invitation (and do contact us to be invited). Membership fees support SOFI’s operations and provide seed funding

for translational research across academic, industry, and government labs. Members have access to the top experts in the field, to an interactive exchange of ideas across a wide spectrum of technologies (via the SOFI Knowledge Map), and to a dedicated SOFI management team positioned to identify opportunities for technology acceleration, expanded research revenue streams for SOFI-led projects, and advocacy.

What about other alternative energy sources?

There are a number of technology pathways being explored in the quest for sustainable energy— from wind to solar to biofuels to geothermal, each with its own set of advantages and disadvantages.

Ultimately, the solution will likely be the deployment of a portfolio of these technologies. The intermittency of wind and solar necessitates solutions for energy storage, and a liquid fuel packs significantly more energy per volume than batteries. This in turn lowers costs and facilitates wider adoption. Solar liquid fuels can also be easily adopted within the current energy infrastructure in transportation.

How will SOFI manage intellectual property?

SOFI believes that there are likely more failures to learn from than IP to fight over in solar fuels research today, hence the intense focus on pre-competitive sharing and building of a trusting network.

However, SOFI has crafted a set of guidelines for the management of IP that protects the interests of the inventing parties. The IP Management Guidelines are intended to promote a consistent, uniform, and simplified approach to the disposition of IP rights and the handling of proprietary and protected data across all SOFI Members to accelerate research via an open exchange of information.

PEOPLE

SOFI is driven by a team of industry pioneers, thought leaders, scientific visionaries, and expert researchers. We believe the stakes are high and the time is ripe to embrace innovative ways of addressing the energy challenge.

Milko van der Boom
Milko van der Boom
Weizmann Institute of Science
Ronny Neumann
Ronny Neumann
Weizmann Institute of Science
Gary Brudvig
Gary Brudvig
Yale University
Aaron Appel
Aaron Appel
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Morris Bullock
Morris Bullock
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Wolfgang Lubitz
Wolfgang Lubitz
Max Plack Institute for Chemical Energy Conversion
Vincent Artero
Vincent Artero
CEA-Grenoble
James Muckerman
James Muckerman
Brookhaven National Laboratory
Etsuko Fujita
Etsuko Fujita
Brookhaven National Laboratory
Ralph House
Ralph House
UNC-Chapel Hill
Will Royea
Will Royea
Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis
Ellen Stechel
Ellen Stechel
Arizona State University
Michael Wasielewski
Michael Wasielewski
Northwestern University
Charles Dismukes
Charles Dismukes
Rutgers University
Laura Fabris
Laura Fabris
Rutgers University
Leif Hammrstrom
Leif Hammrstrom
Uppsala University
Dunbar Birnie
Dunbar Birnie
Rutgers University
Devens Gust
Devens Gust
Arizona State University

Amin Badr-El-Din, Ph.D.

Founder, Chairman, & CEO Badr Investments

Amin Badr-El-Din is an expert in international affairs and one of Middle East’s leading economic and energy strategists. Amin founded and led BADR Investments, a global private investment firm that has a diversified portfolio of ventures spread across a range of industries and geographies.

Amin has created a fully integrated economic modeling and practical implementation plans for successful downstream economic growth for several countries, predominantly in the Middle East. Amin was also founder and Chairman/CEO of the UAE Offsets Group (the UOG) which pioneered a model unique amongst offsets operations in the world, including the creation of the strategic (US $8 billion) Dolphin gas initiative in the UAE. Dr Badr-El-Din has advised a number of governments including Ireland, France, Jordan, UAE, South Africa, Malaysia, Switzerland and Indonesia. He is a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society, as well as a member of other professional organizations, and is involved in several non-profit activities. He took a First Class Honours degree in Electronic Engineering and Aerodynamics at the University of London, and holds a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering at Stanford University

Sebastien de Halleux

Founder & CEO, Togetr

Sebastien de Halleux co-founded Playfish, one of the largest and fastest growing social game companies which disrupted the video game industry by changing how millions of people play together. Playfish was acquired by video game giant Electronic Arts in November of 2009.

Prior to starting Playfish, Sebastien assisted in the launch of Macrospace, and early pioneer in mobile games (now Glu Mobile, which IPOed in 2007) and worked at other companies including Nokia and Booz Allen Hamilton. He holds a master's degree in Civil Engineering from Imperial College London. Sebastien is an active angel investor and is involved in several non-profit projects which harness bright minds and technology to change the world for good. Sebastien was a recipient of the 2010 TechFellow Award. He has resided in Brussels, Bangkok and London, and presently lives in San Francisco.

Jay Walsh, Ph.D.

Vice President for Research, Northwestern University

Jay Walsh began his service as Northwestern University's Vice President for Research in 2007 and was formerly the senior associate dean of McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, where he is a professor of biomedical engineering.

Jay received a bachelor's and master's degree in electrical engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Immediately following receipt of his Ph.D. in medical engineering from Harvard Medical School and MIT, Jay joined the Northwestern faculty in 1988. Walsh's early research on laser-tissue interactions helped frame the understanding of laser ablation; this work formed the scientific foundation for now standard laser-based procedures in medicine and surgery. In the past decade, his research has focused on dignostic and therapeutic applications of light.

Joan Woodard, Ph.D.

Former Executive Vice President, Sandia National Laboratories

Joan Woodard served at Sandia for more than 35 years, including ten years as an Executive Vice President and Deputy Laboratory Director.

During her career at Sandia she held executive leadership positions in all of the mission programs at Sandia, including the nuclear weapons, nonproliferation, military technology and systems, energy, environment and waste management technology, and intelligence, as well as serving as chief operating officer responsible for all operating areas of the laboratories. She holds a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley; an M.S. in Engineering Economic Systems from Stanford University; and a B.S. in Applied Mathematics and Computer Science from the University of Missouri-Rolla (magna cum laude). She has served on the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board (AF/ SAB), and the Congressional Commission to Assess the Vulnerabilities of the US Infrastructure to Electromagnetic Pulse. She also served on the National Academy of Science Study on Science and Technology for Countering Terrorism.

Anousheh Ansari

Co-founder & Chariman, Prodea Systems

Anousheh Ansari is a serial entrepreneur, and prior to founding Prodea Systems, she served as co-founder, CEO and chairman of Telecom Technologies, Inc.

To help drive commercialization of the space industry, Anousheh and her family provided title sponsorship for the Ansari X Prize, a $10 million cash award for the first non-governmental organization to launch a reusable manned spacecraft into space twice within two weeks. Anousheh is a member of the X Prize Foundation’s Vision Circle, as well as its Board of Trustees. She is a life member in the Association of Space Explorers and on the advisory board of the Teacher’s in Space project. She currently works to enable social entrepreneurs to bring about radical change globally, with organizations such as X Prize, ASHOKA and the PARSA Community Foundation. She earned a bachelor’s degree in electronics and computer engineering from George Mason University and a master’s degree in electrical engineering from George Washington University.

CONTACT

Prospective member? Questions? Contributions?

info@solar-fuels.org