CalTech's Harry Gray to speak Dec. 8 on making clean fuel from sunlight and water

Army of students contribute to efforts to find global solar solutions for public

12/6/2011 | By: Mike Wolterbeek  |

Harry Gray, the force behind an army of hundreds of students all working to make solar power a usable, ubiquitous source of energy for the world, will talk about his National Science Foundation funded project in a free public lecture on Thursday, Dec. 8 at the University of Nevada, Reno campus.

His project, "Powering the Planet: Solar Fuels" is based in the multi-institutional, multi-million dollar Center for Chemical Innovation at the California Institute of Technology.

In his Discover Science Lecture Series presentation, "The 21st Century Solar Army" Gray will describe how this multitude of students, using relatively low-tech equipment, is working to discover brand new catalysts to split ordinary water into oxygen and hydrogen gases that can then be used to fuel cars, heat homes and power factories using a tiny solar device to capture sunlight.

"The sun is a boundless source of clean energy, but it goes down every night," Gray, founding director of the Beckman Institute, California Institute of Technology, said. "We, and many others, are trying to design solar-driven molecular machines that could be used on a global scale to store solar energy by splitting water into its elemental components to make clean, carbon-free energy.

"We are working on rugged light absorbers and catalysts made from Earth abundant materials that have the potential to split water as efficiently as natural photosynthesis. The artificial photosynthesis process needs to be cheap and non-toxic."

"We're honored to have Harry bring this essential subject to the community," Jeff Thompson, dean of the University of Nevada, Reno's College of Science said. "He inspires others to learn more, discover more and work to help solve a critical problem facing the world today - how do we best provide safe, sustainable energy."

In 1966 Gray began work in biological inorganic chemistry and solar photochemistry, including the development of inorganic systems for energy storage. He has received numerous prestigious national and international awards and 16 honorary doctorates.

Other renowned scientists who will bring their knowledge to the community in the Discover Science series of lectures include:

Feb. 9 - Jeff Lieberman, musician, artist, researcher and host of "Time Warp" on the Discovery Channel.

March 1 - Naomi Oreskes, author, professor of history and science studies at the University of California, San Diego.

All lectures will be held at 7 p.m. in the Redfield Auditorium, Davidson Mathematics and Science Center at the University of Nevada, Reno. Admission is free. Parking is reserved for the event on the upper level of of the Brian J. Whalen Parking Complex. For more information, call (775) 784-4591 or visit the College of Science website.


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