DOE Creates a New Energy Hub to Develop Fuels from Sunlight

July 28, 2010

DOE announced on July 22 the creation of the Fuels from Sunlight Energy Innovation Hub to develop revolutionary methods of generating fuels directly from sunlight. The Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis (JCAP), led by the California Institute of Technology in partnership with the DOE's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, will operate the initiative. JCAP will bring together leading researchers in an effort to simulate natural photosynthesis for practical energy production. The goal is to build an integrated solar energy-to-chemical fuel conversion system before moving the system from the discovery phase to a commercial scale. To fulfill its mission, the hub will receive up to $22 million in Fiscal Year 2010, then an estimated $25 million per year for the next four fiscal years.

Research will be directed at finding the functional components needed to assemble a complete artificial photosynthetic system, including light absorbers, catalysts, molecular linkers, and separation membranes. The hub will then integrate those components into an operational solar fuel system and will develop scale-up strategies to move the product from the laboratory to commercial viability. The ultimate objective is to move from fundamental to applied research and technology development, setting the stage for a direct solar fuels industry. If successful, the concept—to combine sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide to make a clean fuel—would be an energy sector game changer. DOE's Office of Science will oversee the project. The Fuels from Sunlight Energy Innovation Hub is the second of three such interdisciplinary hubs that will receive funding in FY 2010. In May, DOE announced that a team led by DOE's Oak Ridge National Laboratory will establish a hub on modeling and simulation for nuclear reactors. The selection for the remaining hub will be announced in the coming months. See the DOE press release, the Fuels from Sunlight award fact sheet (PDF 183 KB), and the Fuels From Sunlight Hub Web page. Download Adobe Reader.