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Volume 87 Issue 31 | p. 10 | News of The Week
Issue Date: August 3, 2009

Reaching For The Sun

Chemists convene in Germany to stake out the challenges for solar energy research
Department: ACS News
Keywords: ACS News, Chemical Societies, Solar Energy
SOLAR SYMPOSIUM
Researchers from five countries met at the secularized Seeon monastery, in Germany, to discuss energy.
Credit: Sarah Everts/C&EN
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SOLAR SYMPOSIUM
Researchers from five countries met at the secularized Seeon monastery, in Germany, to discuss energy.
Credit: Sarah Everts/C&EN

Thirty chemists from China, Germany, Japan, the U.K., and the U.S. met on July 23–25 at a monastery in southern Germany to discuss the current state of solar energy research. They also worked to prioritize scientific challenges that must be met before sunlight can be optimally harnessed as an energy alternative to fossil fuels.

The first meeting, the Chemical Sciences & Society Symposium (CS3), was organized by chemistry associations—including the American Chemical Society, which publishes C&EN—of the five participant countries. Representatives from research funding agencies from those countries, which paid for the conference, also attended.

"Big-time problems—like energy—that involve all of humanity require big-time solutions," says Luis Echegoyen, director of the Chemistry Division for the National Science Foundation, which cosponsored the event. "Chemists have a lot to contribute to solving the energy problem. We wanted to get people together to figure out how to collaborate on an international level" to address the energy challenge.

The goal of the symposium was to pinpoint the "steps required and the direction chemistry research needs to take" to enable solar energy to best contribute to the global energy solution, says Julie Callahan, who works in ACS's Office of International Activities and represented the society at the conference. The three-day event focused on four topics related to solar energy: mimicking photosynthesis using synthetic materials, employing biomass to convert sunlight into usable energy, creating innovative photovoltaics, and storing solar energy in batteries and as fuel.

A conference report aimed at the public, politicians, and policymakers is currently in the works.

"The meeting was an experiment worth trying," says Teruto Ohta, executive director of the Chemical Society of Japan. "These are great challenges, and no country alone knows exactly how to handle them. International cooperation is important."

Organizers hope the conference will be the first of several that tackle "the global challenges of the 21st century and the indispensible role that the chemical sciences play in addressing these issues," says Klaus Müllen, president of the German Chemistry Association.

 
Chemical & Engineering News
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