UNC researchers have taken a cue from plants, finding a way to capture the sun’s energy during the day for use at night. It’s a system that converts the sun’s energy into hydrogen fuel, rather than electricity, so that it can be stored, allowing us to draw power long after the sun sets. Tom Meyer, an Arey Distinguished Professor of Chemistry in UNC’s College of Arts and Sciences, led a team of researchers at the UNC Energy Frontier Research Center to develop the system which mimics natural photosynthesis.
“A lot of these energy systems with battery storage are fine, but if you are talking about making the sun a primary energy source—say it accounts for 50 percent of our energy needs—then you ask the question, ‘Where are you going to store the energy?’ It is staggering. There is no answer to that. Then the nighttime dilemma becomes really, really important,” Meyer said. The process uses a device called a dye-sensitized photoelectrosynthesis cell (DSPEC).