The Center for Solar Energy was established in 2007 to pioneer research in solar energy conversion. Presently, solar energy provides an insignificant fraction (<<1%) of the United States' overall energy needs, and fundamental scientific breakthroughs will be required to change this state of affairs.

News

September 2011 - Prof. Matt Law receives a Next-Generation DOE SunShot award to develop 10% solar cells from iron pyrite.

June 2011 - Prof. Reg Penner is named UCI Chancellor's Professor.

January 2011 - Prof. Matt Law's research on Fool's Gold Solar Cells is featured in the LA Times.

August 2010 - Profs. Matt Law, John Hemminger, John Lowengrub, and Ruqian Wu receive an NSF Solar Initiative award to study thin film PV made from abundant elements: Fe and S.

July 2010 - Prof. John Hemminger is part of the newly DOE-funded Joint Center for Artifical Photosynthesis (JCAP) that is developing new methods to produce fuels from sunlight.

May 2010 - Prof. Alan Heyduk receives the Scialong Solar Energy Conversion Award for early career scientists.

Jan. 2010 - Congratulations to Prof. Matt Law for being selected to receive the DOE Early Career Research Program Award.

Sept. 2009 - Prof. John Hemminger has been elected to the inaugural class of Fellows of the American Chemical Society.

May 2009 - Prof. Alan Heyduk receives the Camille Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award for 2009.

May 2009 - CfSE researchers are part of two of 46 DOE Energy Frontier Research Centers.

Feb. 2009 - Prof. John Hemminger briefed national policy makers on the energy crisis.

Feb. 2009 - Prof. Reg Penner has been awarded the 2009 Faraday Medal.

Mission

The mission of the Center for Solar Energy (CfSE) is to study the fundamental scientific principles of solar energy conversion and to educate scientists, students, and the general public about harnessing our most abundant energy resource.

Solar to Electric Power Generation

Photovoltaics (PV) or solar cells directly convert the energy from the sun to direct current (DC) electricity. Researchers in the CfSE are looking into ways to develop cheap, easy to manufacture, and high efficiency solar cells. Fundamental insights and new materials and design developments will help drive down the cost barrier for large-scale implementation.

Solar Heat to Electric Power Generation

Thermoelectrics (TE) directly convert heat to electricity. These devices can utilize wasted solar heat as well as wasted heat from other sources like car braking, making this technology very exciting for many areas of the clean energy sector. Researchers in the CfSE are studying the fundamental obstacles that limit the efficiency in these devices as well as developing interesting new nano-scale morphologies and materials.


Water Splitting for Chemical Fuel Production

Photoelectrochemical water splitting uses the energy from the sun to directly split water molecules (H2O) into hydrogen (H2) and oxygen (O2) gas. Chemical fuels, such as hydrogen, have very high energy densities making them ideal for transportation and energy storage. Researchers in the CfSE are looking into new approaches to split water. This includes designing new molecules based on photosynthesis and synthesizing unique nanostructures.

Enabling Technologies for Solar Energy

There are several important technologies and science areas that complement the above research areas. This includes hydrogen sensing needed for a hydrogen economy, micro-inverters to efficiently convert DC electricity generated by PV and TE devices to AC electricity you use in your home, and batteries for energy storage.