U.S. Department of Energy Awards $12.5 Million to UChicago for New Energy Frontier Research Center

Laura Gagliardi will lead the new Catalyst Design for Decarbonization Center will investigate the mechanisms behind sustainably generated hydrogen fuel.

The U.S. Department of Energy has awarded researchers at the University of Chicago $12.5 million to advance work aimed at finding innovative solutions for long lasting hydrogen energy research — potentially offering a zero-emission alternative to fossil fuels.

“Meeting the Biden-Harris Administration’s ambitious climate and clean energy goals will require a game-changing commitment to clean energy — and that begins with researchers across the country,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “The research projects announced today will strengthen the scientific foundations needed for the United States to maintain world leadership in clean energy innovation, from renewable power to carbon management.” 

The Catalyst Design for Decarbonization Center, CD4DC, will be the first center of its kind based at the University of Chicago and will be led by Laura Gagliardi, the Richard and Kathy Leventhal Professor at the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering, the Department of Chemistry, and the James Franck Institute. Gagliardi also is the director of the Chicago Center for Theoretical Chemistry. Six other UChicago investigators will join Gagliardi — Chibueze AmanchukwuJohn Anderson, Andrew FergusonIan Foster, Juan de Pablo, and  .

The call to decarbonize the chemical and energy industries requires the reduction and eventual elimination of fossil fuels. Accomplishing that goal will require the adoption of radically new approaches for producing chemicals and storing electric power harvested from the wind and sun.

“By expanding our fundamental understanding of these chemical processes, we will be able to help address one of humanity’s biggest global challenges — climate change,” Gagliardi said. “Collectively, we must invent new, renewable sources of energy. The mission of the CD4DC is to offer an efficient, pragmatic solution that will impact society for the better, sooner.” 

Hydrogen may serve as an ideal alternative, being abundant and far more energy dense. Future applications may also include converting electric power to chemical energy through electrolysis. However, new catalysts (substances that increase the rate of a chemical reaction) are needed to facilitate those transformations. The central mission of the CD4DC is to discover and develop such catalysts to optimize the catalytic reactions involved.

Based at the University of Chicago, the CD4DC will partner with researchers at Argonne National LaboratoryClemson UniversityNorthwestern UniversityPacific Northwest National LaboratoryStony Brook University, and the University of Illinois at Chicago, and the University of Minnesota.

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