2011 - Harry B. Gray

The Solar Army

The sun is a boundless source of clean energy, but it goes down every night. We and many others are trying to design solar-driven molecular machines that could be used on a global scale to store solar energy by splitting water into its elemental components, hydrogen and oxygen. Hydrogen is a clean fuel that could be used directly or combined with carbon dioxide to produce methanol, a liquid fuel. We are working on rugged light absorbers and catalysts made from Earth abundant materials that have the potential to split water as efficiently as natural photosynthesis. We have recruited hundreds of students to join a Solar Army whose mission is the discovery of brand new metal-oxide catalysts for our solar water splitters.

Harry B. Gray is the Arnold O. Beckman Professor of Chemistry and the founding director of the Beckman Institute at the California Institute of Technology. After graduate study and research at Northwestern University and the University of Copenhagen, he joined the chemistry faculty at Columbia University, where he worked on the electronic structures and reactions of inorganic complexes. He moved to Caltech in 1966, where his work in biological inorganic chemistry has shed light on the factors that control electron flow through proteins. He has received the National Medal of Science from President Ronald Reagan (1986); the Priestley Medal (1991); the Harvey Prize (2000); the Wolf Prize (2004); the Welch Award (2009); and 16 honorary doctorates. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences; the American Philosophical Society; the Royal Danish Academy; the Royal Swedish Academy; the Royal Society of Great Britain; and the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei.

Watch this lecture: Part I   Part II