Creator of “Artificial Leaf” To Give 2013 Kilpatrick Lecture

A chemist whose “artificial leaf” was named one of the top inventions of 2011 by Time Magazine will be this year’s Kilpatrick Lecturer in Chemistry. Daniel Nocera, the Patterson Rockwood Professor of Energy in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Harvard University, will speak on “Alternative Energy for Society and Third-World Applications” on April 17 at 4 pm in the McCormick Tribune Campus Center auditorium. A reception and poster session at 5:30 p.m. will follow the lecture. All are welcome; please RSVP here.

A member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, Nocera is developing innovative, inexpensive energy sources, including the “artificial leaf” – a silicon solar cell with different catalytic materials bonded onto its two sides that makes fuel from sunlight, capturing elements of photosynthesis.

Earlier artificial leaves successfully split water into hydrogen and oxygen, but used expensive materials and were costly to produce. Nocera’s leaf uses a nickel-molybdenum-zinc compound and a cobalt film, both much less costly, opening the door to use one day in developing countries.

“A research target of delivering solar energy to the poor with discoveries such as the artificial leaf provides global society its most direct path to a sustainable energy future,” Nocera wrote in an article about his work in the American Chemical Society journal Accounts of Chemical Research.

“Artificial photosynthesis is an exciting development in renewable energy, and Professor Nocera’s work opens up new opportunities to achieve a secure energy future,” said Ishaque Khan, professor of chemistry and executive associate chair of chemistry. “His research is an excellent example of the power of chemistry to help solve society’s most pressing problems.”

Nocera’s other research interests include the development of proton-coupled electron transfer and its application to radical enzymology, the development of new cancer therapies by creating nanocrystal chemosensors for metabolic tumor profiling, and more.

Nocera has received numerous awards, including the American Institute of Chemists Award, American Chemical Society Award in Inorganic Chemistry, Inter-American Photochemistry Award in Photochemistry, and the United Nations Science and Technology Award. He earned a B.S. in chemistry from Rutgers University and Ph.D. from the California Institute of Technology. He accepted his position at Harvard in 2012 after being a professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Michigan State University.

IIT’s annual Kilpatrick Lecture honors Martin and Mary Kilpatrick, who were outstanding researchers and educators at IIT. Martin served as chair of the Department of Chemistry from 1947-1960, leading the department to national prominence in both undergraduate and graduate instruction and research.