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  • Caltech awarded $20 million

Photonics Spectra
Nov 2008
Rebecca C. Jernigan,

PASADENA, Calif. –California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena has been awarded a $20 million Phase II Chemical Bonding Center award from the National Science Foundation to further its research into solar-fuel power plants.

The institute was awarded a Phase I contract in 2005, and the researchers and their partners from MIT in Cambridge as well as from other institutions used that grant to conduct the initial research and to establish public outreach plans to make solar fuels using materials created from the earth’s elements.

The award gives the project, called “Powering the Planet,” a five-year extension. The researchers will use the Phase II contract to test and refine a nanoscale water-splitting device that incorporates nanoscale materials to make fuel from sunlight and water.

Their goal – to use solar electricity to split water into oxygen and hydrogen, both of which are energy-rich fuels – has prompted participants to research and develop a silicon nanorod-studded plastic sheet for sunlight harvesting as well as efficient catalysts for the oxidation of water.

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