Introductory lecture: Systems materials engineering approach for solar-to-chemical conversion
Solar-to-chemical (STC) production using a fully integrated system is an attractive goal, but to-date there has yet to be a system that can demonstrate the required efficiency or durability, or could be manufactured at a reasonable cost. One can learn a great deal from the natural photosynthesis where the conversion of carbon dioxide and water to carbohydrates is routinely carried out at a highly coordinated system level. There are several key features worth mentioning in these systems: spatial and directional arrangement of the light-harvesting components; charge separation and transport; as well as the desired chemical conversion at catalytic sites in compartmentalized spaces. In order to design an efficient artificial photosynthetic materials system, at the level of the individual components better catalysts need to be developed, new light-absorbing semiconductor materials will need to be discovered, architectures will need to be designed for effective capture and conversion of sunlight, and more importantly, processes need to be developed for the efficient coupling and integration of the components into a complete artificial photosynthetic system.