Capturing the sun's energy to avert dark days in the future


An MIT researcher who advocates renewable energy wants us to think solar, writes Dick Ahlstrom

The future is solar, or could be if a leading renewable energy expert has his way. His Massachusetts Institute of Technology research group is working on advanced methods for capturing hydrogen fuel from sunlight.

Prof Daniel Nocera comes to Dublin later this month to attend the 17th international symposium on photo chemistry and photophysics to be held at Trinity College Dublin.

While here, he will also deliver a free public lecture and lead a discussion on how the sun may answer at least some of the questions over future energy needs. The title of his presentation is What About Solar Energy?

Nocera is professor of chemistry at MIT but also WM Keck professor of energy and is one of the world's leading researchers on renewable energy at the molecular level.

He is studying chemical reactions capable of producing energy directly from sunlight and is involved in improving methods for using sunlight to break water into hydrogen and oxygen.

Nocera has also become a powerful advocate for renewable energy of all kinds and warns of a bleak energy future if we fail to address the energy question given diminishing supplies of fossil fuels.

Although his research is very complex, Nocera is highly regarded for the quality and accessibility of his science-based television programmes, aimed at a general audience. His Nova series shown on PBS in the US was nominated for a 2006 Emmy Award.

His presentation on June 25th is less a lecture than a dialogue with the audience and with a panel put together for the event. Nocera will speak for about 20 minutes about his work and renewable energy before introducing an invited panel and inviting questions from the floor.

The panel includes Prof Vincenzo Balzani of the University of Bologna; Dr Padraic Larkin of the Environmental Protection Agency; and Prof Michael Graetzel, EPFL, Lausanne.

It promises to be both entertaining and informative and should give its audience valuable insights into the latest research on solar energy sources.

The event is one in an ongoing series jointly organised by the Royal Irish Academy, The Irish Times and Depfa Bank.

It takes place in the Burke Theatre, Trinity College, Dublin at 4.30pm on Monday June 25th. The presentation is free but must be booked in advance given the limited number of places available.

See the academy's web site at to book a place. A small number of tickets will also be made available directly from the academy, tel: 01-6762570