Indian-origin professor of chemistry and biochemistry, biochemistry at the University of Texas in Arlington Dr. Krishnan Rajeshwar along with his team has developed new high-performing materials for cells that harness sunlight to split carbon dioxide and water into use-able fuels such as methanol and hydrogen gas. These "green fuels" can be used to power cars, home appliances or even to store energy in batteries. He is also the co-founder of the university’s centre of renewable energy, science and technology.
Dr. Rajeshwar said the technologies that simultaneously permit them to remove greenhouse gases while harnessing and storing the energy of sunlight as fuel are at the forefront of current research. The new hybrid platform uses ultra-long carbon nano-tube networks with a homogeneous coating of copper oxide nano-crystals. It demonstrates both the high electrical conductivity of carbon nano-tubes and the photo-cathode qualities of copper oxide, efficiently converting light into the photo-currents needed for the photo electrochemical reduction process.
The team is designing, building and demonstrating a "microfluidic electrochemical reactor" to recover oxygen from carbon dioxide extracted from cabin air. "Our new material could improve the safety, efficiency and cost-effectiveness of solar fuel generation which is not yet economically viable," said Dr. Rajeshwar, who is an alumnus of the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in Bengaluru.
Hailing the contribution, Morteza Khaledi, Dean of the University of Texas (UTA) college of science, said "Dr. Rajeshwar's ongoing, global leadership in research focused on solar fuel generation forms part of UTA's increasing focus on renewable and sustainable energy…Creating inexpensive ways to generate fuel from an unwanted gas like carbon dioxide would be an enormous step forward for us all”.
His work is representative of the university’s commitment to addressing critical issues with global environmental impact under the Strategic Plan 2020. Dr Rajeshwar is also senior vice president of The Electrochemical Society – an organisation representing the nation’s premier researchers dedicated to advancing solid state, electrochemical science and technology.