Solar to Fuel

Solar Energy to Fuel – FESC Expertise and Resources

Our vision recognizes that large scale deployment of solar energy would be enabled by storing and distributing this intermittent energy source in a fluid fuel. Furthermore, it would significantly reduce our current dependence on imported oil for transportation fuel. It also recognizes that H2O and CO2 represent natural feedstocks that if, respectively, they could be efficiently dissociated and reduced at scale, the current technology allows downstream production of fuels is established.

Gas pump etc

Summary of Expertise:

  • Homogeneous and heterogeneous catalysis
  • Molecular level understanding of photocatalysts (DOE funded project): Surface science studies of metal oxide photo catalysts for a fundamental understanding of basic processes occurring during photoreactions and for the controlled design of metal oxides for enhancing their solar light activity.
  • Characterization of surface defects of metal oxide photo catalysts.
  • Modification of photo catalytically active materials by doping to increase solar light response.
  • Role of charge trapping sites in photocatalysis.
  • Nano-engineering of photocatalysts to enhance charge separation/transport.
  • Characterization of chemical surface properties at the molecular scale.
  • Use of synchrotron facilities for characterization of electronic structure and chemical reactions at surfaces.
  • Theoretical and computational chemistry: Design of catalysts for energy conversion processes.
  • Surface science of model catalysts
  • Surface analysis, surface modification, model photocatalyst design
  • Investigation of macro-molecular surfaces and interfaces with a specialization on organic luminescent and conductive materials, as well as nano-particles and bio-molecular materials
  • Investigation of excited state dynamics in conjugated materials for light harvesting
  • Solar fuels and chemicals
  • Nanomaterials and photocatalytic nanoparticles development
  • Electrochemical separation and sequestration of hydrogen sulfide and oxygen
  • Homogeneous and heterogeneous activation of hydrocarbons
  • Hydrogen via seawater electrolysis
  • Thermocatalytic production of hydrogen from methane with concurrent carbon capture
  • Carbon neutral and carbon negative hydrogen production
    • Catalysts and processes for the solar/thermocatalytic methane & HC splitting
    • Catalysts and processes for the solar/thermochemical water splitting
    • Reactive materials and solar-thermal chemistry and thermal-transport modeling toward reactive metals for thermal processing
    • Computational and quantum chemistry, and thermo-chemical transport
  • Solar thermochemistry: This is an emergent process technology, where concentrated solar energy is used to drive endothermic chemical reactions at elevated temperatures. Its most promising application is the production of carbon-neutral fuels, e.g., via solar thermochemical water splitting or via the solar thermochemical upgrading of carbonaceous fuels like waste or biomass. The emphasis of research is in fundamental heat and mass transfer phenomena in solar thermochemical reactors and in the development and testing of novel reactor concepts for solar thermochemical processes.
  • Synthesis of organic fuels specifically for hydrogen storage.
  • Hydrogen storage and gettering
  • Hydrogen sensing and detection
  • High-temperature biomass and waste thermal-chemical conversion to energy
  • Second generation biofuels
  • Thermal heat flow and gravimetric analyses
  • Reactor design
  • Kinetics
  • Separations
  • Structural, microstructural, chemical characterization and property measurements
  • Fundamental studies of energy transfer. Ultrafast time resolved spectroscopy.
  • Plant design and optimization


Core Faculty Members

Faculty University Expertise Department or Position
Jim Brenner FIT Development of nanostructured adsorbents, purifiers, and heat transfer media for the hydrogen, microelectronics, specialty chemicals, and pharmaceutical industries. Professor, Chemical Engineering
Mary Helen McCay FIT Influence of gravitational force on single crystal growth, directional solidification,and casting. Director, National Center for Hydrogen Research, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
Yahya Ibrahim Sharaf-Eldeen FIT Mathematical modeling, simulation, design and control of dynamic systems. Professor, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
Ali T-Raissi UCF Hydrogen production and storage, detection and sensing, solar fuels, biomass conversion Director, Advanced Energy Research Division
Nazim Muradov UCF Hydrogen production, fuel cells, sensors, biomass derived fuels, hydrocarbon processing Research Professor, Florida Solar Energy Center
Jong Baik UCF/FSEC Hydrogen storage, liquefaction Principal Research Scientist, Advanced Energy Research
David Hahn UF Kinetics; Solar-Thermochemical H2 and Synthetic Fuel Production Department Chair, Mechanical & Aerospace Eng.
Jonathan Scheffe UF Solar thermochemical and electrochemical energy conversion, defect chemistry and thermodynamics of nonstoichiometric oxides Associate Professor, Mechanical & Aerospace Eng.
Helena Weaver UF Heterogeneous Catalysts; Nanoparticle Oxide Supports; Surface Characterization; Synthetic Fuels Associate Professor Dept. of Chemical Engineering
Jason Weaver UF Gas-surface Reactivity and Dynamics, Atomic and Molecular Beam Methods, Surface Spectroscopy Professor, Chemical Engineering
Adam Veige UF Homogeneous catalysis Professor, Chemistry
Charles Martin UF Nano materials; Electrochemical energy production Crow and Distinguished Professor, Chemistry
David Wei UF Visible light photo-catalysis; Designing novel plasmonically active hybrid nanomaterials; nanoparticle enhanced solar cell; surface chemistry Associate Professor, Chemistry
Kirk Schanze UF Charge and excitation migration; Dye sensitized solar cells Professor, Chemistry
Lisa McElwee-White UF Homogeneous catalysis; Electrocatalysis Crow Professor and Chair, Chemistry
Rod Bartlett UF Theoretical Chemistry Professor, Chemistry
Valeria Kleiman UF Ultrafast time resolved spectroscopy Associate professor, Chemistry
William Dolbier UF Novel Fluorinated Carbanion Chemistry Professor, Chemistry
Simon Phillpot UF Theoretical and computer-based methods Distinguished Professor, Materials Science and Eng.
Jacob Chung UF High-temperature biomass and waste thermal-chemical conversion to energy Andrew H. Hines/Progress Energy Professor and Florida Eminent Scholar, Mechanical & Aerospace Eng.
Hai-Ping Cheng UF Theoretical Chemistry Professor, Physics
John Sabin UF Electron dynamics of molecular systems Professor, Physics
Neil Sullivan UF NMR studies of molecular kinetics and interactions with adsorbents and catalytic agents Professor, Physics
Erik Deumens UF Computational theoretical chemist Director/ UF Information Technology – Research Computing and Scientist in Department of Chemistry and Physics
Babu Joseph USF Fischer-Tropsch Synthesis of Synthetic Liquid Fuels. Solar assisted biomass conversion to liquid fuels. Process Systems Modeling, Simulation and Analysis. Professor, Chemical Engineering
Randy Larsen USF Biophysical chemistry; Time-resolved optical spectroscopy; Novel photothermal methods Professor, Chemistry
Rudy Schlaf USF Surface Science; Macro-molecular materials Professor, Electrical Engineering
Matthias Batzill USF Surface Science of Model Catalysts; Photocatalysis Professor, Physics


  • High flux solar simulator for high temperature solar thermochemical research: A 50 kWe high flux solar simulator consisting of an array of Xe-arc lamps, each coupled to an ellipsoidal mirror is currently being designed for the UF Solar Energy Engineering Laboratory. The UF high flux solar simulator will serve as an experimental platform for solar thermal and solar thermochemical research
  • The Nano and Surface Physics Lab (Batzill Lab)
    • Molecular beam epitaxy (MBE) facility for the growth of planar model oxide photo catalysts
    • Photoemission spectroscopy facility for compositional and electronic structure analysis of catalysts
    • Ultra high vacuum photo-reaction set-up for measuring photo reactivity of model photo catalysts
    • Surface chemistry apparatus, equipped with quadruple mass spectrometer (QMS) for temperature programmed desorption (TPD), low energy electron diffraction (LEED), and Auger electron spectroscopy (AES)
    • Ultra high vacuum scanning tunneling microscope (STM) for atomic scale structural and chemical surface analysis of model photocatalysts
  • Surface Science Lab (Electrical Engineering): Integrated multi-chamber surface science system equipped with photoemission spectroscopy, LEED, and in-situ sample preparation facilities including electrospray deposition of macro-molecular materials and evaporation of various inorganic materials
  • 18-foot trailer scale high-temperature gasification biomass to heat and power experimental system
  • Bench-scale super-high temperature steam biomass gasification experimental system
  • Large-scale first-principles calculations of nano-particles, solids and surfaces, quantum transport through nano/molecular junction, atomistic simulations of water assisted reactions on surfaces, and electron transfer at interface. Innovative methods and algorithms for direct-dynamical DFT methods in conjunction with path-integral approaches and particle (molecules and clusters)-surface interaction. Modeling for the quantum-classical MD interface and a novel computing architecture for multi-scale, multi-processes simulations. PAW potentials and spin-unrestricted QPscfGW for PWSCF
  • John C. Slater Computation and Visualization Laboratory: This Laboratory provides computing and networking services. The central server consists of a redundant pair of servers that function as backup for each other in case of maintenance or hardware failure. They are Sun Fire V490 servers with 4 1.2 GHz Ultra SPARC III+ CPUs, 8 GB of RAM and a 770 GB RAID 5 disk array for home directories and two 380 GB RAID 5 disk arrays for scratch space. There are 50 Solaris desktop workstations with static IP addresses. High-performance development and production computing is performed on a grid of Linux clusters with a total of 304 CPUs. Some are Xeon IA32, some Xeon EM64T, and some AMD Opteron. These clusters are connected by Gigabit Ethernet and are managed by the PBSPro batch management system.
  • Quantum Visualization Studio (QVS): Produces high quality scientific images and animations. Its mission is to develop visualization as a tool for scientific research, efficient communication, and modern education.
  • 120 node beowulf cluster. Each node, a SunFire x4150, contains two Quad-Core Xeon X5460s, 16GB of RAM, Licensed to run VASP, Gaussian, DLPOLY molecular simulation software
  • High Performance Computing Center
  • Femtosecond laser laboratory with equipment for ultrafast time resolved emission and transient absorption measurements
  • Bench-scale Autoclave Engineers BTRS – Jr® reaction system for vapor phase catalyst evaluation and continuous flow process analysis
  • Mettler Toledo DSC1 Differential Scanning Calorimeter
  • Agilent Technologies 6890N Network GC/MS System for analysis of reaction products
  • Excaliber Series Bio-Rad FTIR with accessories for gaseous and solid/liquid characterization
  • Aabspec FTIR in-situ reaction chamber to characterize surface reaction at the molecular level
  • Pyroprobe- GC/MS-MS and FTIR analysis and characterization of solid fuels
  • TGA-MS and TPD/TPR-MS analysis of catalysts
  • DSC with cryogenic capability
  • AM1 and AM1.5 solar simulators for rapid photocatalyst screening and characterization
  • BTRS-jr system for rapid thermocatalyst screening and characterization
  • Hiden PCT system for Sievert’s analysis
  • Extensive in-house MEA fabrication facility
  • NMR facilities for determination of molecular kinetics and interactions with adsorbing structures
  • Test bed scale tape casting capability
  • Use of DOE funded National Labs, particularly synchrotron facilities