Energy is the underpinning of all technological progress our society makes. Tapping into energy sources and converting and storing energy into useful forms are challenges humans face within the constraints of limited natural resources and an increasing global demand. Materials lie at the heart of this challenge. By creating novel materials with unique structure, properties and better processes, scientists and engineers in IMSE are creating exciting opportunities to address the grand energy challenge.
At IMSE, researchers are using atmospheric 'spray' processes and thermal oxidation of metal surfaces to produce highly versatile nanostructures which allow absorption of sunlight and can be used for splitting water into H2 and O2 (Figure 1a, b). Similarly, metallic nanoparticles made of gold can capture and refocus light producing intense electromagnetic fields near their surface. Such nanoparticles are embedded inside semiconductors to study ways in which these nanoparticles can improve efficiencies of solar cells (figure 1c).