The Quest For Solar Fuel

Freund Works to Make the Ultimate Green Energy a Reality

The hot thing in solar right now is solar batteries.  Tesla, Samsung and others are taking orders for the latest burgeoning energy tactic – but even as it helps get more people off the grid, many don’t deny that the devices have limitations and are not cost-effective.

Recently, Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates proclaimed that solar fuel is the future and called for support from business titans to fund research for this critical energy innovation.

Carbon-neutral solar fuel would not only be the cleanest fuel on the planet, but cost effective: it could be transported and stored using the infrastructure we currently have in place for gasoline. But transforming light energy into chemical energy–a process plants do every day–is not an easy task for humankind.

But, Florida Tech’s Michael Freund, head of the Department of Chemistry and a leading solar energy scientist is pursuing fundamental research that is key for making solar fuel a reality. With funds from the National Science Foundation’s Center for Chemical Innovation Program, Freund and an international team from institutions including California Institute of Technology and Massachusetts Institute of Technology are working to design electrically-conductive materials that can harvest the vast energy available in sunlight.

Freund’s work specifically focuses on the development of membranes with electronic properties that can be integrated with light absorbers and catalysts to make artificial photosynthetic systems.

The process and end product of solar fuel would revolutionize how we generate and consume energy.

But, the quest continues: Science still hasn’t matched the efficiency of natural photosynthesis in plants. Researchers like Freund need the support of industry leaders, such as Gates, to continue to embrace the idea of solar fuel and fund promising work on this carbon-neutral energy source.

To interview Dr. Freund about solar fuels and other energy research, contact Adam Lowenstein at, 321-674-8964.


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