Public Release: 

Argonne, Northwestern seek ANSER to solar energy challenges

DOE/Argonne National Laboratory

The Argonne-Northwestern Solar Energy Research Center, or ANSER Center, will combine and expand the research interests of both institutions to address the grand scientific challenges posed by the need for economically viable solar energy use.

"Global energy needs will double by 2050 and triple by 2100," said Michael R. Wasielewski, Northwestern chemistry professor and director of the new center. "An increase in the use of solar energy is essential for meeting this need in an environmentally responsible manner."

Researchers at the ANSER Center will come from both Argonne and Northwestern, and will examine new economical ways to use sunlight to produce clean fuels, such as hydrogen, from water and to produce electricity directly from low-cost photovoltaic and thermoelectric systems.

"The scientific challenges to achieving these goals are complex and cross-disciplinary, requiring an integrated systems approach," said George Crabtree, director of Argonne's Materials Science Division and deputy director of the ANSER Center. " Argonne and Northwestern each have a long history of accomplishment in solar energy research, as well as a culture of interactive team approaches to problem-solving. Add the world-class complementary expertise and facilities, and the result should be real breakthroughs in understanding fundamental solar energy conversion mechanisms and the ability to dramatically improve the efficiency of converting solar energy to fuels and electricity."

Another goal is to educate a science and engineering workforce able to solve cross-disciplinary energy problems through educational opportunities available through the collaboration.

Key scientific challenges that will be addressed through the ANSER Center are:

  • Coupling light energy to catalysts to produce clean fuel;

  • Developing interfaces between different materials to greatly increase the performance of organic photovoltaics;

  • Developing nanoscale electrode architectures within solar cells to increase their performance;

  • Developing new materials to directly convert solar heat to electricity with high efficiency.

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Argonne and Northwestern have other partnerships, including research areas such as superconductivity, nanoscale science and engineering, and materials science. The two institutions also have a 40-year tradition of joint appointments to integrate research.

Initial funding for the ANSER Center comes from support from both institutions. In addition, center members currently receive federal support in the solar energy field.

About Argonne National Laboratory

The nation's first national laboratory, Argonne conducts basic and applied scientific research across a wide spectrum of disciplines, ranging from high-energy physics to climatology and biotechnology. A winner of the 2003 Nobel Prize in Physics, Alexei Abrikosov, is a member of Argonne's Materials Science Division.

Argonne has worked with more than 600 companies and numerous federal agencies and other organizations to help advance America's scientific leadership and prepare the nation for the future. Argonne is managed by UChicago Argonne, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science.

About Northwestern University

Northwestern is recognized both nationally and internationally for the quality of its educational programs at all levels. U.S. News & World Report consistently ranks the University's undergraduate programs among the best in the country. Among graduate programs, the Department of Chemistry and the Materials Science and Engine erin g Department regularly rank among the top ten in the country.

Northwestern's chemistry department enjoys strong ties with the chemical industry; its Industrial Associates Program -- a partnership with leading chemical-based industries -- includes campus visits, seminars, joint research, and support. Approximately 60 percent of Northwestern chemistry alumni hold industrial positions, 30 percent have academic careers, and 10 percent are employed by government or independent research institutions.

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