MSE Seminar Series: Dunwei Wang
Friday, February 15, 2013
1:00 p.m.-2:00 p.m.
Room 2110 Chemical and Nuclear Engineering Bldg.
Innovating Materials at the Nanoscale for Artificial Photosynthesis
Department of Chemistry
Photosynthesis harvests solar energy and stores it in chemical forms. When used to produce fuels, this process promises a solution to challenges associated with the intermittent nature of sunlight. Theoretical studies show that photosynthesis can be efficient and inexpensive. To achieve this goal, we need materials with suitable properties of light absorption, charge separation, chemical stability, and catalytic activity. For large-scale implementations, the materials should also be made of earth abundant elements. Due to the intricacy of these considerations, a material that meets all requirements simultaneously is absent and, as a result, existing photosynthesis is either inefficient or costly or both, creating a critical challenge in solar energy research. Using inorganic semiconductors as model systems, here we present our strategies to combat this challenge through rational material design and precise synthesis control. Guided by an insight that complex functionalities may be obtained by combining multiple material components through homo- or hetero-junctions, we have produced a number of material combinations aimed at solving fundamental challenges common in inorganic semiconductors such as poor charge collection, mismatch of energy levels, and weak light absorption. Most of these results will be presented within the context of solar water splitting. Our latest effort to devise highly specific reaction routes for carbon dioxide photofixation will be discussed, as well.
About the Speaker
Dunwei Wang graduated from the University of Science and Technology of China in 2000 with a B.S. degree in chemistry. He was then trained at Stanford University (with Hongjie Dai) between 2000 and 2005, where his Ph.D. thesis was awarded the Prize for Young Chemists by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry. After two years of postdoctoral study with James R. Heath at Caltech, he joined the faculty of Boston College where he is currently an Associate Professor of Chemistry. His research concerns the development of new materials that can be used for efficient solar energy conversion and storage. He is a recipient of an NSF CAREER award, a Sloan Research Fellowship, and a Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) Catalyst award.