Secretary of Energy awards US$122 million for an energy innovation hub



Caltech will be leading the way for the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis (JCAP) with some help from U.S. Deputy Secretary of Energy, Daniel Poneman’s US$122 million award for the Energy Innovation Hub. The project will focus on replicating nature’s photosynthesis energy process as a new approach to energy production for commercialized use. The award will be distributed over a five year term to a multidisciplinary team of scientists chosen for the project.

The hub will be directed by Nathan Lewis and George Argyros, both chemistry professors at the California Institute of Technology. Caltech will also partner with the Berkeley Lab and a slew of other California universities including: Stanford, UC Berkeley, UC Santa Barbara, UC Irvine and UC San Diego. The center will be located in the Jorgensen Laboratory building on the Caltech campus.

“The Energy Innovation Hubs have enormous potential to advance transformative breakthroughs,” says Deputy Secretary Poneman. “Finding a cost-effective way to produce fuels as plants do-combining sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide-would be a game changer, reducing our dependence on oil and enhancing energy security.  This Energy Innovation Hub will enable our scientists to combine their talents to tackle this bold and highly promising challenge.”

The hubs will consist of large, multidisciplinary, collaborative teams of scientists and engineers who are managed by other scientists and engineers, which will be selected for their experience and authority in responding to new developments. JCAP’s research will be aimed at creating a synthetic photosynthesis system, including: light absorbers, catalysts, molecular linkers and separation membranes. Taking this research the hub will then take those components from nature and move them into an operational solar fuel system, whose ultimate goal is to go from laboratory to commercial operation.

Selection for the program was based off a scientific peer review and directed by the DEO of Science, who will maintain federal oversight responsibilities for the hub. This fiscal year the hub will receive US$22 million, with an additional US$25 million every year after for the next four years, subject to congressional appropriations.

More information about the hubs can be found here.

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