Molecular Energy Processes

Molecular Energy Processes

  • Chemical/Electrochemical Energy
  • Biological Energy Conversion
  • Photovoltaics and Solar Energy

Molecular aspects of energy conversion involve the interconversion of energy among three molecular level entities: chemical bonds, electrons, and photons.

In addition, biological, electrochemical, chemical, solar, and nuclear energy research address energy storage in the form of fuels.

Chemical/Electrochemical Energy

  • Stu Adler: Solid-state Electrochemical Engineering, Electrocatalysis, Ionic Transport in Ceramics
  • Eric Stuve: Electrocatalysis

Fuel cells convert chemical energy directly to electrical energy. Adler’s research group focuses on properties and function of solid oxide electrolytes for use in solid oxide fuel cells. He has developed non-linear electrochemical impedance spectroscopy (NLEIS), which provides unprecedented characterization of electrochemical processes involving solid oxides.

Stuve’s research group focuses on electrocatalytic reactions occurring in solid oxide and proton exchange membrance fuel cells. Stuve and Adler have collaborated on a solid oxide fuel project to study hydrocarbon oxidation on solid oxide fuel cell anodes.

Biological Energy Conversion

  • Mary Lidstrom: Molecular and Metabolic Manipulations of Methylotrophic Bacteria
  • Dan Schwartz: Bio-resource Based Energy for Sustainable Societies

Lidstrom’s research group studies the ability of bacteria to convert many classes of bio-feedstocks to fuels and chemicals. This work involves a new systems-level approach to metabolic networks, to redesign bacterial metabolism for the efficient production of fuels and chemicals, such as converting sugars to propanol and butanol with significantly higher yields than ethanol production.

The IGERT in Bio-Resource Based Energy for Sustainable Societies, lead by Dan Schwartz, examines a number of processes for converting biomass, to practical fuels, such as hydrogen and liquid fuels. An unusual feature of this work is the involvement of Native American tribes (e.g. the Yakama Nation in central Washington) in developing energy conversion for sustainable societies.

Photovoltaics and Solar Energy Conversion


Jenekhe’s research group pioneers the development of solar cells based on organic material (polymers) rather than inorganic material (silicon). His group has developed a polymer solar cell, based on self-assembled nano-wires, that gives 3.5% energy conversion, among the highest for organic solar cells.