Solar energy is an abundant resource with the potential to sustainably power human civilization. However, it is also intermittent and generated in a transient form - electricity.
In contrast, the majority of our current energy infrastructure relies on chemical fuels such as petroleum, coal, and natural gas. Seamless integration of solar energy for societal use requires efficient conversion of electricity into chemical fuels. The conversion of radiant energy into chemical fuels is already carried out in nature on a grand scale through photosynthesis.
Jenny Yang’s research program focuses on several issues important to the realization of artificial photosynthesis to enable a renewable and carbon-neutral energy infrastructure. A primary goal is the development of efficient, selective, and economical catalysts that can reduce feedstocks such as H2O and CO2 directly into chemical fuels using solar electricity. To achieve this, the Yang lab pursues a cross-disciplinary approach using methodology and insight from enzymes to solid-state catalysts in order to gain a global understanding of energy-efficient reaction pathways in fuel-forming reactions. Their comprehensive approach establishes guidelines for the rational design of new high-performance fuel forming catalysts.
Yang’s group has also invented a facile and modular method of integrating electrocatalysts to photovoltaic surfaces, resulting in new materials for photoelectrochemical cells (PECs). Their methodology has the potential to facilitate the rapid generation of electrode materials for direct sunlight-to-fuels production.
Tsay, C. and J.Y. Yang. "Electrocatalytic Hydrogen Evolution under Acidic Aqueous Conditions and Mechanistic Studies of a Highly Stable Molecular Catalyst." J. Am. Chem. Soc. 138,43 (2016): 14174-14177.
Kotyk, J. F. K., C.M. Hanna, R.L. Combs, J.W. Ziller and J.Y. Yang. "Intramolecular Hydrogen-Bonding in a Cobalt Aqua Complex and Electrochemical Water Oxidation Activity." Chem. Sci. 9, (2018): 2750 - 2755.
Bianca, M., C. Tsay and J.Y. Yang. "CO2 Reduction or HCO2- Oxidation? Solvent Dependent Thermochemistry of a Nickel Hydride Complex Ceballos." Chem. Commun. 53 (2017): 7405-7408.
Hanna, C. M., C.D. Sanborn, S. Ardo and J.Y. Yang. "Interfacial Electron Transfer of Ferrocene Immobilized onto Indium Tin Oxide through Covalent and Noncovalent Interactions." ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces 10,15 (2018): 13211-13217.
Tsay, C., B. Livesay, S. Ruelas and J.Y. Yang. "Solvation Effects on Transition Metal Hydricity." J. Am. Chem. Soc. 137,44 (2015): 14114-14121.