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UNC Energy Frontier Research Center Celebrates Research Breakthrough

By Rachel Nash Posted January 18, 2014 at 6:30 am

CHAPEL HILL - UNC Energy Frontier Research Center is leading the way in the future of renewable energy in our region.

Established in 2009 and commissioned by the U.S. Department of Energy, the research center is headquartered on UNC’s campus, but features partnerships with Duke University, North Carolina Central University, the University of Florida, Research Triangle Institute, Georgia Institute of Technology and the University of Colorado at Boulder.

This week the center announced its discovery of how 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, is the Director of the Energy Frontier Research Center. He led a team of researchers to develop the system which mimics natural photosynthesis.

Meyer said that research breakthroughs such as this benefit the University in more ways than one.

“It means that students are attracted. People are aware that we exist,” Meyer said. “They look for leadership here. So the impact, I think of a program like this when it succeeds in terms of national and international reputation, and then the people who get involved in the program, is really significant.”

This research breakthrough comes at a pivotal time for solar and other forms of renewable energy.

In 2013, the International Energy Agency (IEA) predicted that renewable power production, including solar, wind, and water, will top the production of gas and nuclear energy combined by 2016. Renewable energy is projected to deliver almost 25 percent of the world’s total energy by 2018.

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