UC Irvine chemists are finding new ways to harvest sunlight, whether by the novel use of “fool’s gold” or, say, the creation of an artificial leaf. Among the research projects is an effort to turn iron pyrite – fool’s gold – into cheap, highly efficient solar panels.
Other researchers are taking part in a nationwide, Department of Energy funded program seeking to generate fuel by engineering an artificial leaf from materials like silicon, iron or nickel. Instead of building plant tissue like its natural counterpart, the leaf would split hydrogen from water, allowing the hydrogen to be used for fuel.
Both projects are part of UC Irvine’s Center for Solar Energy, established in 2007 to study the basic principles of solar power and to educate scientists, and the public, about its potentially bright technological future.