Owing to the dramatically decreased cost of solar panels (i.e. photovoltaics), in solar energy utilization, the main research opportunities that exist lie in the development of high efficiency conversion materials as well as persistent grid-scale storage to compensate for the intermittency of sunlight.
Solar fuels generation, or fuel forming reactions such as water oxidation to O2 and subsequent reduction of protons to generate H2 may be carried out by homogeneous molecular catalysis or by catalysis on a heterogeneous surface. Solar H2, regardless of the source, may be used directly as a fuel, or indirectly by reaction with carbon-based feedstocks like CO2 or biomass to yield methanol or more desirable C2+ fuels. While mechanistic investigations are often easier to carry out in homogeneous systems, heterogeneous catalysts benefit from increased stability and recyclability. A marriage of the two approaches involves the adsorption of molecular chromophores and known catalysts to heterogeneous semiconductor surfaces resulting in devices where the overall energetics are well understood.
What we do
We aim to understand the fundamental processes governing light-based chemistry and research in the Majewski group focuses on developing, characterizing and optimizing new inorganic materials for catalyzing visible light-driven processes. Research thrusts include the development of photocatalytic metal-organic compounds and surfaces for “solar fuels” generation, value-added chemical transformations, and surface modification. Our work spans inorganic chemistry, materials engineering, and nanotechnology.