Solar Photochemistry

This research area supports molecular-level research on solar energy capture and conversion in the condensed phase and at interfaces. These investigations of solar photochemical energy conversion focus on the elementary steps of light absorption, electrical charge generation, and charge transport within a number of chemical systems, including those with significant nanostructured composition. Supported research areas include organic and inorganic photochemistry, light-driven electron and energy transfer in condensed phase and interfacial molecular systems, electrocatalysis and photocatalysis of solar fuels reactions, semiconductor photoelectrochemistry, light-driven generation and manipulation of quantum coherence and entanglement in molecular systems, and artificial assemblies that mimic natural photosynthetic systems. An additional regime of interest is the chemistry initiated through creation of excited states with ionizing radiation to investigate reaction dynamics, structure, and energetics of short-lived transient intermediates in solution or at interfaces.

Solar photochemical energy conversion may ultimately form the basis for approaches to generate electricity, chemical fuels and other energy-rich chemicals. It plays a vital role in DOE’s efforts to develop and leverage solar energy to benefit the nation’s energy portfolio. Photoelectrochemistry provides an alternative to semiconductor photovoltaic cells for electricity generation from sunlight using closed, renewable energy cycles. Solar photocatalysis, achieved by coupling artificial photosynthetic systems for light harvesting and charge transport with the appropriate electrochemistry, provides a direct route to the generation of fuels or chemical feedstocks such as hydrogen, hydrocarbons, oxygenates, or even ammonia. Additionally, fundamental concepts derived from studying highly efficient excited-state charge separation and transport in molecular assemblies is applicable to future molecular optoelectronics development.

To obtain more information about this research area, please see the proceedings of our Principal Investigators' Meetings. To better understand how this research area fits within the Department of Energy's Office of Science, please refer to the Basic Energy Science's organization chart and budget request.

For more information about this research area, please contact Dr. Christopher Fecko, or Dr. Jennifer Roizen.