Director of the UNC Energy Frontier Research Center for Solar Fuels Honored by Million Dollar Prize

UNC Energy Frontier Research Center for Solar Fuels.
UNC Energy Frontier Research Center for Solar Fuels.

UNC Energy Frontier Research Center for Solar Fuels.

Tom Meyer, director of the Energy Frontier Research Center for Solar Fuels at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, was honored Oct. 6 as one of two recipients of a $1 million prize given by Israel for research on alternative fuels.

Meyer, who is also Arey Distinguished Professor of Chemistry in the College of Arts and Sciences, and Michael Grätzel of the Ecole Polytechnique de Lausanne in Switzerland are the 2014 winners of the Eric and Sheila Samson Prime Minister’s Prize for Innovation in Alternative Fuels for Transportation, the Prime Minister’s Office announced Monday morning.

“We are making a major multi-year effort so that we will not be dependent on fluctuations in the price of oil,” Netanyahu said.

This prize gives the researchers true appreciation for their efforts.

Meyer and Grätzel are developing cheap and efficient processes based on solar cells that convert solar energy into electricity, which can be used for vehicle propulsion. The cells are able to split water into hydrogen and oxygen – a critical step in the generation of solar-based fuels, whose only emissions are water.

“Dr. Meyer is a superb example of the kind of innovators we have here at UNC,” said UNC Chancellor Carol L. Folt.

I join the entire Carolina community in congratulating him on this international honor. His team is bringing the world closer than ever to making solar energy a practical, reliable power source, and we are proud to have him as a member of our faculty here at UNC.

A member of the National Academy of Sciences, Meyer works on solar energy conversion, artificial photosynthesis and the splitting of water into hydrogen and oxygen. His Energy Frontier Research Center recently received a renewal grant of $10.8 million over the next four years from the U.S. Department of Energy to advance emerging solar energy technologies and to turn these technologies into devices that can efficiently produce fuels.

“Receiving the Samson award is a remarkable honor and I am thrilled to receive it with Michael Grätzel. In fact, the award is a recognition of the research efforts of many students and colleagues over the years,” Meyer said.

I take special note of the UNC Energy Frontier Research Center on Solar Fuels funded by Basic Energy Sciences at DOE. It is through the efforts of this talented group of people that we have been able to pioneer what may be a breakthrough technology for providing a useful form of solar energy for future generations.

At Lausanne, Grätzel directs the laboratory of photonics and interfaces and pioneered the use of mesoscopic (between microscopic and macroscopic) materials in energy conversion systems. In 1988, Grätzel co-invented today’s dye-sensitized solar cells, which became known as Grätzel cells.

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