Robert Coridan, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry at the University of Arkansas, receives an Early Career Research Award from the U.S. Department of Energy for his work on improving the efficiency of chemical reactions that convert solar energy into chemical fuels. Coridan will receive $750,000 over five years. The award will enable his research team to focus efforts on the optical and photochemical properties of defects in randomly distributed films of nanosphere colloids — nanoscopic glass and plastic beads. With a better understanding of these properties, the researchers reportedly can design scalable structured materials to increase the efficiency of light absorption that drives fuel-forming chemical reactions. The goal of this research is to devise easy-to-fabricate and scalable nanostructures that maximize a material's ability to convert the sun’s energy into chemical bonds, or fuels, a process similar to photosynthesis in plants.
“The hope is that we can choose the correct combinations of colloids to get structures that form light-trapping cavities, thus amplifying the intensity of light and rate of photochemical processes in any material we place there,” Coridan says.
The Department of Energy’s Office of Science selected 73 scientists from across the nation to receive significant funding for research as part of department’s Early Career Research Program. To be eligible for the department award, researchers must be untenured, tenure-track assistant or associate professors at a U.S. academic institution or a full-time employee at the department’s national laboratory who received a doctorate within the past 10 years. Research topics are required to fall within one of the department's Office of Science's six major program offices:
• Advanced Scientific Computing Research
• Basic Energy Sciences
• Biological and Environmental Research
• Fusion Energy Sciences
• High Energy Physics
• Nuclear Physics
Awardees were selected from a large pool of applicants based at universities and national laboratories. Selection was based on peer review by outside scientific experts. Projects are selections for negotiation of financial award. The final details for each project award are subject to final grant and contract negotiations between DOE and the awardees.
For more information, visit: www.uark.edu