UTSA professor receives grant to support sunlight-harvesting research
(May 8, 2017) -- Kirk Schanze, Robert A. Welch Distinguished University Chair in Chemistry at The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), has received a $448,211 grant from the National Science Foundation to support his research in converting sunlight to chemical energy.
The Schanze Research Group at UTSA is focused on the interaction of light with molecules, polymers and materials. Currently, Schanze and his students are centering their work on light emission and how converting light into energy could be used in applications like solar cells and fuels.
"We make new light absorbing molecules and polymers and then we characterize what happens to their molecular structure when the absorb light," Schanze said. "We want to understand how fast the light is absorbed and what happens directly afterward because that tells us something about how the energy is being used and where it goes."
He and his students are modeling their artificial light conversion on natural photosynthesis. When plants convert sunlight into energy to feed themselves, a process occurs that separates positive and negative electron charges on the molecules. This is called charge transfer, and it's an important process in energy conversion.
In essence, charge transfer is the step when light energy is converted into stored chemical energy. With this new grant, Schanze will look deeper into this process. The group hopes to find molecules or a polymer which optimize the light to chemical energy conversion process.
"We make artificial systems in our synthesis work and they undergo similar types of processes to what happens in plant photosynthesis," he said. "We're working on trying to understand those mechanisms and mimic the kind of conversions that are happening in nature."
The end goal for Schanze is knowledge, so that other researchers are able to build upon his work and eventually develop solar fuel.
"Without this important step, we'll never accomplish the goal of making efficient artificial photosynthesis, which is very important for mankind," he said.
Further down the road, Schanze predicts solar fuel could be a large part of the energy future of the United States and the world.
"We need to create pathways toward the production of energy and fuels in ways that are carbon-neutral and independent of the needs of non-renewable resources," he said. "Everything we're doing here is in service to one day accomplishing that goal."
UTSA is ranked among the top 400 universities in the world and among the top 100 in the nation, according to Times Higher Education.
Learn more about the Schanze Research Group.
Learn more about the UTSA Department of Chemistry.
Orientation marks a major step toward becoming a Roadrunner. It is a unique experience designed to welcome freshmen and transfers to UTSA and ensure a successful transition into college. They will learn about UTSA, prepare for their first semester and have fun meeting other students. There is also a special Family Orientation program too.Various locations, Main and Downtown Campuses
The sympoisum will focus on the interface between aging and neurodegenerative diseases, will educate the wider research community about advancements in this fast-paced field and stimulate collaborative research in this area. Register online for this free event.H-E-B University Center Ballroom (HUC 1.106), Main Campus
The institute this year will focus on being lifelong growers and continually seeking to increase our skills as educators. Sessions will align with daily themes designed to support the lifelong development of educators. The institute is free for everyone.Frio Street Building, Downtown Campus
Annual Enrollment is the period when you may change your benefit elections. The period is July 15 to July 31, 2017. HR Benefits Office will host its Benefits Fair and presentations on July 12 at all three campuses.Business Building, University Room (BB 2.06.04), Main Campus
Annual Enrollment is the period when you may change your benefit elections. The period is July 15 to July 31, 2017. HR Benefits Office will host its Benefits Fair and presentations on July 12 at all three campuses.Frio Building, Riklin Auditorium (FS 1.406), Downtown Campus
Annual Enrollment is the period when you may change your benefit elections. The period is July 15 to July 31, 2017. HR Benefits Office will host its Benefits Fair and presentations on July 12 at all three campuses.Institute of Texan Cultures, Connally Room (ITC 3.01.02), Hemisfair Campus