Laying the foundation for new energy technology

Monday, July 24, 2017 - 11:12 in Physics & Chemistry

Troy Van Voorhis remembers being jolted by the announcement in 1989, when he was in the seventh grade, that researchers had successfully demonstrated cold fusion. “My science teacher canceled our regular class to explain this remarkable development,” recalls Van Voorhis, the Haslam and Dewey Professor of Chemistry at MIT. “The idea really captured my imagination, and I was hooked on the possibility that you could produce energy from the physical reactions of chemicals.” Although the apparent breakthrough quickly proved to be spurious science, it ignited Van Voorhis’ lifelong interest in energy and chemistry. Nearly three decades later, the theoretical chemist investigates what he calls “energy-related big questions.” He scrutinizes and models the behavior of electrons in research that, among other things, seeks to improve the photovoltaic cells used in solar energy; to develop new, high-efficiency indoor lighting; and to create chemical storage technology for electricity generated by renewable energy technologies. While his fuse for scientific discovery was lit...

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