The University of California at Berkeley recently held a christening that is being hailed as a key moment in the effort to harness the sun’s energy to create fuel. Lawrence Berkeley Lab officials on Tuesday unveiled a $59 million Solar Energy Research Center.
Named after former US Energy Department Secretary and Lab Director Steven Chu, the 40,000-square-foot Chu Hall will be a place of world-changing research in producing cheaper, more efficient renewable energy to replace fossil fuels, said Chu, who was honored for inspiring the mission.”This is one of the most important problems that science, technology and innovation really need to solve,” Chu said. “It’s a very big deal. … We simply need to save the world, and it’s going to be science that’s going to be at the heart of that solution.”
The facility will be home to the Berkeley hub of the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis, a US Department of Energy-funded collaboration led by Caltech that is attempting to create solar fuel as plants do by using sunlight and other catalysts to split water into hydrogen and oxygen gas and convert carbon dioxide into liquid fuels such as methanol and ethanol. The byproduct of producing such a fuel would be oxygen. Berkeley lab Director Paul Alivisatos said Tuesday’s occasion was a recognition of the lab for being at the forefront of renewable energy science and a representation of its aspirations for the future.
“Our goal for this place is to solve the solar energy problem,” Alivisatos said. “Right now, we can only get energy from the sun when the sun is shining. Then we have to solve the problem of what do we do the rest of the time. … If we can make fuel from sunlight, that problem would really be transformed radically. It could change the picture of how we use energy in the future and create a whole new industry.” More information can be found here.