National Science Foundation provides Wayne State grant to explore solar harvesting methods

Published on August 15, 2017 by Chris Galford

A $310,000 grant awarded to Stephanie Brock, a professor of chemistry at Wayne State University, earlier this month will allow for investigation of new means to convert solar energy into electricity or fuel.

The grant came from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and was specifically meant to help in the design of two systems: efficient solar cells and photochemical water-splitting (hydrogen fuel generation) systems. Brock’s research–dubbed Establishing a Chemical Toolbox for Programmed Assembly of Metal Chalcogenide Nanoparticles into ‘Wired’ Architectures–seeks to identify how to turn plentiful solar energy into circuit powering electrons or even into chemical fuel.

“We are developing methods that enable quantum dots with different chemical potentials to bond to each other, thereby creating a voltage that can drive a current within the structure,” Brock said. “We are also working hard to understand how the chemical nature of the inter-particle bonding affects the ability to rapidly move the charges, and how these charges can sometimes get ‘stuck’ and resist extraction.”

Quantum dots refers to light-harvesting particles that are too small to be seen even by an ordinary light microscope. Brock’s techniques could potentially see those dots assembled into films and 3D porous structures that would then be more easily visible. This could then be harnessed for the design of those more efficient generation systems.