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Prof. Joseph T. Hupp

Prof. Joseph Hupp
Monday May 22nd

Water and Sunlight: Chemistry for a Hydrogen-powered Energy Future


Molecular hydrogen from water is the ultimate chemical energy carrier and, arguably, the ultimate storable and portable renewable energy source. The fuel-cell powered Toyota Mirai represents an early and successful commercial embodiment of these notions. For H2 to be truly portable, useable, and renewable, however, we require: 1) an environmentally friendly, carbon neutral source, 2) a rapid and compact means of storing and releasing H2, and 3) an efficient means of transforming stored chemical energy into mechanically useable power. Electrochemical fuel cells together with electric motors satisfy the last requirement a cost-effective and remarkably energy-efficient fashion. The other two, however, present significant challenges – ones that chemists may be uniquely well equipped to meet.

This talk will focus first on the design and application of stable, well-defined, ultra-high surface area materials that can meet the challenge of rapid and compact H2 storage and release. The route to meeting this challenge provides an illustration of how computational modeling and experimental synthesis can be usefully combined to zero-in on high-performing, molecule-derived materials.

For the balance of the talk I’ll put the focus on catalyst design, synthesis, and utilization.   Energy-efficient production of solar fuels, such as hydrogen derived from water splitting, requires good catalysts and photo-catalysts. By way of illustration, I will describe how an emerging synthesis technique, AIM (Atomic layer deposition In MOFs), can be used to make high-density, periodic arrays of catalytic clusters with close-to-single-atom precision, and how these arrays can be used for catalytic and photo-catalytic water splitting