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  • New Solar Research Facility Breaks Ground
Oct 2012
BERKELEY, Calif., Oct. 29, 2012 — Construction has begun on a 40,000-sq-ft solar energy research facility at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory that will aid in the quest for alternative fuels from sunlight.

The Solar Energy Research Center (SERC) — expected to be completed by late 2014 — will house research laboratories and offices of the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis (JCAP) and will integrate under one roof fundamental discovery research with technology development. Such methods include the synthesis of new light absorbing materials, catalysts for fuel generation and assembly techniques to build complete integrated systems.

An illustration of Berkeley Lab’s new Solar Energy Research Center. Construction on the 40,000-sq-ft, $54 million facility has begun. By late 2014, the facility is expected begin its work to develop prototype artificial photosystems that can produce fuel from sunlight. Courtesy of SmithGroup Architects.

The goal of the $54 million project is to develop prototype artificial photosystems that can produce a fuel from sunlight that is 10 times more efficient than current crops, using only nonarable land.

“JCAP will allow us to develop the science and technology needed to create future transportation fuels from sunlight,” said Berkeley Lab director Paul Alivisatos. “Our country has a real need for alternatives to the fuels we use now, and we’re confident our JCAP scientists will find some of those alternatives for us.”

Digging in at the ceremonial SERC groundbreaking event are, from left, Berkeley Lab Director Paul Alivisatos, California Public Utilities Commission President Michael R. Peevey, California State Assembly Member Nancy Skinner, UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau, Berkeley Lab JCAP director Heinz Frei and Nat Simons from the Simons Foundation. Courtesy of Berkeley Lab.

JCAP is a partnership between Berkeley Lab and California Institute of Technology. Caltech is the JCAP lead under Director Nate Lewis, with SLAC National Accelerator as a key partner.

“Shoulder-to-shoulder interaction between scientists discovering new components and engineers developing prototypes is the key for accelerating the pace towards a solar fuel technology,” said Heinz Frei, Berkeley Lab’s JCAP director. “The building will provide a unique educational environment for raising the next generation of scientists in renewable energy.”

The SERC facility, located on the lab’s hillside campus, also will house researchers from the University of California, Berkeley.

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