UC Berkeley, Berkeley Lab announce Kavli Energy NanoSciences Institute


(Nanotubes imagesNanowerk News) The Kavli Energy NanoSciences Institute  (Kavli ENSI) announced today (Thursday, Oct. 3) will be supported by a $20  million endowment, with The Kavli Foundation providing $10 million and UC  Berkeley raising equivalent matching funds. The Kavli Foundation also will  provide additional start-up funds for the institute. The Kavli ENSI will explore  fundamental issues in energy science, using cutting-edge tools and techniques  developed to study and manipulate nanomaterials – stuff with dimensions 1,000  times smaller than the width of a human hair – to understand how solar, heat and  vibrational energy are captured and converted into useful work by plants and  animals or novel materials.
This new Kavli Institute has already received matching fund  gifts from the Heising-Simons Foundation, establishing a Heising-Simons Energy  Nanoscience Fellows program, and a donation from the Philomathia Foundation,  establishing the Philomathia Discovery Fund.
“The field of nanoscience is poised to change the very  foundations of how we should think about future energy conversion systems,” said  Kavli ENSI Director Paul Alivisatos, who is also director of Berkeley Lab and  the Samsung Distinguished Chair in Nanoscience and Nanotechnology in UC  Berkeley’s College of Chemistry. “UC Berkeley and Berkeley Lab stand out  worldwide for their strong efforts in nanoscience and their research activities  related to energy, so energy nanoscience is a particular strength for us.”
“I am delighted to welcome the Kavli ENSI into the community of  Kavli institutes,” said Fred Kavli, Founder and Chairman of The Kavli  Foundation. “By exploring the basic science of energy conversion in biological  systems, as well as building entirely new hybrid and perhaps even completely  artificial systems, the Kavli ENSI is positioned to revolutionize our thinking  about the science of energy, and is positioned to do the kind of basic research  that will ultimately make this a better world for all of us.”
“This new partnership with the Kavli Foundation and Berkeley Lab  is significant and exciting,” said UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks. “The  Kavli Institute will expand our portfolio of research endeavors focused on  alternative sources of energy, one of the planet’s most pressing and complicated  challenges. Progress in the realm of energy nanosciences will be contingent on  successful collaboration across conventional scientific boundaries – the very  approach that has made Berkeley a global leader in alternative energy research.”
“There is simply no better time, given the issues surrounding  energy worldwide, to announce an institute dedicated to the basic science of  energy. This new Kavli Institute will have superb leadership and a large number  of extraordinary faculty affiliated with it,” said Robert W. Conn, President of  The Kavli Foundation. “I’d like as well to thank both the Heising-Simons  Foundation and the Philomathia Foundation for their confidence in Berkeley and  in this new Kavli Institute. Their matching gifts will help the Kavli ENSI at  Berkeley get off to a very strong start.” He added, “There is also no more  important time than now to invest in basic scientific research. History has  shown that discoveries in basic science have a profound impact on the economy of  nations, on the health of people, and on the well-being of societies.”
The Kavli ENSI will be the fifth nanoscience institute worldwide  established by The Kavli Foundation, joining Kavli Institutes at the California  Institute of Technology, Cornell University, Delft University of Technology in  the Netherlands and Harvard University. The foundation funds an international  program that includes research institutes, professorships, symposia and other  initiatives in four fields – astrophysics, nanoscience, neuroscience and  theoretical physics. It is also a founder of the Kavli Prizes, which recognize  scientists for their seminal advances in astrophysics, nanoscience and  neuroscience.
With the announcement of the Kavli ENSI, The Kavli Foundation  has established 17 institutes worldwide – 11 in the United States, three in  Europe and three in Asia.
Scientists at the Kavli Energy NanoSciences Institute will look  beyond today’s energy conversion approaches to explore unusual avenues found in  biological systems and to build entirely new hybrid or completely artificial  systems. For example, Kavli ENSI scientists plan to explore how plant pigments  capture energy from the sun and transport it for chemical storage, and how the  body’s molecular motors convert chemical energy into motion inside a cell.  Meanwhile, other scientists and engineers plan to build nanodevices that mimic  and improve on nature’s tricks, using materials ranging from graphene and metal  oxide frameworks to nanowires and nanolasers.
UC Berkeley and Berkeley Lab boast a long history of nanoscience  innovation, starting with Alivisatos’ work in the science of nanocrystals,  ranging from studies of their physical properties to synthesis and applications  in biological imaging and renewable energy. Nearly 100 research labs are devoted  to aspects of nanoscience and nanoengineering.
“The new Kavli ENSI institute is intended to allow us to explore  the principles of energy systems on small scales and is not focused on any  particular area of application,” Alivisatos emphasized. “Fred Kavli’s vision is  to support curiosity-driven science. This institute will help to foster a  long-term perspective.”
“Of course, we have all learned that innovative solutions to  pressing problems can often start in the basic sciences,” said institute  co-director Omar Yaghi, the James and Neeltje Tretter Chair and professor of  chemistry at UC Berkeley and a Berkeley Lab researcher. Yaghi’s work on the  nanoscale properties of metal oxide frameworks – porous composites of iron and  organic molecules – proved to have wide application in natural gas and hydrogen  storage and carbon capture.
Alivisatos said that much of today’s energy research focuses on  improving well-known technologies, such as batteries, liquid fuels, solar cells  and wind generators. On the nanoscale, however, energy is captured, channeled  and stored in totally different ways dictated by the quantum mechanical nature  of small-scale interactions.
“We don’t fully understand some foundational issues about how  energy is converted to work on really short length scales,” he said.
Research by UC Berkeley and Berkeley Lab chemist Graham Fleming  has shown, for example, that when leaf pigments capture light in the form of  photons, electrons are excited and interact in a coherent way not seen at larger  scales. This quantum coherence could potentially be incorporated into nanoscale  artificial systems to produce energy on a commercial scale.
While studying nanoscale motors inside cells, UC Berkeley  physicist Carlos Bustamante and Berkeley Lab theorist Gavin Crooks discovered  that energy flow does not always follow the standard rules of macroscopic  systems. Nanomotors can sometimes move backward, for example, akin to a ball  rolling uphill. Such quantum weirdness might be replicated to create more  efficient nanomachines or self-regulating nanoscale energy circuits.
Other Kavli ENSI scientists plan to investigate how heat flows  in nanomaterials and whether the vibrational energy, or phonons, can be  channeled to make thermal rectifiers, diodes or transistors analogous to  electronic switches in use today; develop novel materials, ranging from polymers  to cage structures and nanowires, with unusual nanoscale properties; or design  materials that could sort, count and channel molecules along prescribed paths  and over diverse energy landscapes to carry out complex chemical conversions.
“I think that by bringing together people who make new forms of  matter, others who know how to manipulate matter on a fine scale, and those who  try to understand how electrons or light propagate through these materials, we  will get the kind of out-of-the-box thinking from which whole new areas of  research emerge,” Yaghi said.
The new institute’s co-director, Peidong Yang, who is the S.K.  and Angela Chan Distinguished Professor of Energy in the College of Chemistry,  said that Kavli ENSI’s multidisciplinary, intellectually stimulating environment  will be ideal for learning “how to program the assembly of nanoscopic building  blocks to create the necessary interfaces so that energy flow, molecular and  charge-charge transport can be controlled in a cooperative manner.”
While the institute will not have separate lab space, its  administrative offices will be housed in two new buildings expected to be  completed next year: Campbell Hall on the UC Berkeley campus and the Solar  Energy Research Center at Berkeley Lab.
Source: Kavli Foundation

Read more: http://www.nanowerk.com/news2/newsid=32595.php#ixzz2gjo9EJpz

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