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Food and Fuel from Sunlight, Air and Water14-01-2020

Speaker: Daniel G. Nocera, Harvard University

Title:  Food and Fuel from Sunlight, Air and Water

Date/Time: January, 2020  /  12.40-13.30

Place: FENS G032

Abstract: Hybrid biological | inorganic (HBI) systems, which combine biological organisms with solar water splitting, have been created to use sunlight, air and water (as the only starting materials) to accomplish carbon and nitrogen fixation, thus providing a path to sustainable nitrogen and carbon cycles for distributed and renewable fuels and agricultural food production.

The carbon and nitrogen fixation cycles begin with the Artificial Leaf, which was invented to accomplish the solar process of natural photosynthesis – the splitting of water to hydrogen and oxygen using sunlight –under ambient conditions. The hydrogen produced from the catalysts of the Artificial Leaf is fed to a bioorganism, which combines it with carbon dioxide from air to produce biomass and liquid fuels, thus closing an entire artificial photosynthetic cycle. The HBI, called the Bionic Leaf, operates is ten times more efficient than natural photosynthesis.

Extending the approach of the Bionic Leaf, a bioorganism has been created to combine the hydrogen from solar water splitting with nitrogen from air to produce fertilizer. This bioorganism can be introduced into the soil as a living biofertilizer, and thus is a replacement of chemical fertilizer. Increases in crop yields by over 300 percent have been observed using the biofertilizer.

This newly discovered science shows that u distributed and renewable systems may be designed to produce fuel (carbon neutral) and food (carbon negative) using only sunlight, air and water.

Bio: Daniel G. Nocera is the Patterson Rockwood Professor of Energy at Harvard University. Widely recognized in the world as a leading researcher in renewable energy, he is the inventor of the Artificial Leaf (Time Innovation of the Year 2011) and Bionic Leaf (World Economic Forum Technology Breakthrough of the Year 2017). Together these discoveries accomplish a complete artificial photosynthetic cycle at an efficiency that is 10 times greater than natural photosynthesis.

Nocera is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Indian Academy of Sciences. He was named as one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World by Time Magazine and was 11th on the New Statesman’s list on the same topic, and he is a frequent guest on TV and radio and is regularly featured in print. His 2006 NOVA show was nominated for an Emmy Award, and in 2010, he was featured in a full–length film, Cool It, which premiered on November 2010 in movie theaters across the world. His film with PF Pictures won the Jury Prize Award at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. His latest projects include the 2019 French film ‘Supernature’ and he is featured Leonardo DiCaprio’s film, Ice on Fire, which premiered at Cannes Film Festival in May 2019 and was released internationally in June 2019.

Before joining Harvard, Nocera was the Henry Dreyfus Professor of Energy at MIT. He has mentored 162 Ph.D. graduate and postdoctoral students, 72 of which have assumed academic positions, published over 475 papers, given over 1100 invited talks and 126 named lectureships. In 2008, Nocera founded Sun Catalytix, a company committed to developing energy storage for the wide‐spread implementation of renewable energy. The assets of the flow battery were purchased by Lockheed Martin in August 2014, and flow battery is now being commercialized under the venture, Lockheed Martin GridStar™ Flow. The invention allows large grid scale storage, and thus has the benefit of accelerating the widespread adoption of renewable electricity. A second company, Kula Bio, was founded by Nocera in 2018. The company is focused on the development of renewable and distributed crop fertilization and land restoration.

Contact: Selim Balcısoy