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Energy department awards $22.7 million for basic solar energy research

WASHINGTON, DC -- The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today announced $22.7 million in basic research projects aimed at improving the capture, conversion and use of solar energy. The research will help increase the amount of solar power in the nation’s energy supply.

“These projects are part of our aggressive basic research in the physical sciences--what I call ‘transformational science’--aimed at achieving a new generation of breakthrough technologies that will push the cost-effectiveness of renewable energy sources to levels comparable to petroleum and natural gas sources,” Under Secretary for Science Dr. Raymond L. Orbach said.

DOE’s Office of Science selected 27 projects that will focus on fundamental science to support enhanced use of solar energy. Universities and national laboratories in 18 states will conduct the research.

The projects are part of a department-wide, comprehensive, balanced portfolio of basic and applied research and technology development aimed at significantly advancing the use of sunlight as a practicable solution to meet our compelling need for clean, abundant sources of energy. These projects, along with the commercialization projects funded through the Solar America Initiative, form an important component of President Bush’s Advanced Energy Initiative. DOE plans to fund additional projects in fiscal year 2008.

The projects will address two priority technical areas:

Conversion of Solar Energy to Electricity (14 projects, $9.9 million over three years)

The challenge in converting sunlight to electricity is to greatly reduce the cost per watt of delivered solar electricity by dramatically improving the conversion efficiency. A broad range of research on novel approaches to solar-to-electricity conversion is covered by these projects, including: nanostructured inorganic photovoltaics, plasmonic conversion concepts, organic and hybrid inorganic-organic photovoltaics, multiple-exciton generation for enhanced conversion, and nano-arrays for improved photoelectrochemical cell performance.

Conversion of Solar Energy to Chemical Fuels (13 projects, $12.8 million over three years) The direct conversion of sunlight into chemical fuels is vital in order to overcome the problem of the day/night variation of the solar resource and to provide solar-derived energy in forms useful for transportation, residential and industrial applications. Projects in this area focus on two major areas: detailed studies of the machinery of natural photosynthetic systems aimed at biomimetic approaches to solar water splitting and photocatalytic schemes for the direct conversion of sunlight into hydrogen or hydrocarbon fuels.

The list of new projects is available at http://www.energy.gov/news/5079.htm.


The basic solar research program is administered by the department’s Office of Basic Energy Sciences in the Office of Science. For additional information about DOE’s Solar America Initiative.

DOE's Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the nation and helps ensure U.S. world leadership across a broad range of scientific disciplines. The Office of Science supports a diverse portfolio of research at more than 300 colleges and universities nationwide, manages 10 world-class national laboratories with unmatched capabilities for solving complex interdisciplinary scientific problems, and builds and operates the world’s finest suite of scientific facilities and instruments used annually by more than 19,000 researchers to extend the frontiers of all areas of science.


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