The Chemical Sciences, Geosciences, and Energy Biosciences Division supports research that explores fundamental aspects of chemical reactivity and energy transduction over an enormous range of scale and complexity. Phenomena are studied over spatial scales from the sub-nanometer, as defined by the structure of atoms and molecules, to kilometers, appropriate to the behavior of subsurface geological structures, and over time scales defined by the motions of electrons in atoms, attoseconds (10–18 seconds), to millennia over which geological change must be understood.
At the heart of this research lies the quest to understand and control chemical reactions and the transformation of energy at the molecular scale in systems ranging from simple atoms and molecules, to active catalysts, to complex biochemical or geochemical moieties. At the most fundamental level, the development and understanding of the quantum mechanical behavior of electrons, atoms, and molecules in the 20thcentury has now evolved into the ability to control and direct such behavior to achieve desired results, such as the optimal conversion of solar energy into electronic excitation in molecular chromophores or into the creation of multiple charge carriers in nanoscale semiconductors.
This Division also seeks to extend this era of 21stcentury control science to include the capability to tailor chemical transformations with atomic and molecular precision. Here, the goal is fully predictive capability for larger, more complex chemical systems, such as interfacial catalysis, at the same level of detail now known for simple molecular systems.
Finally, this Division seeks ultimately to extend a molecular level understanding and control to the emergent and highly non-equilibrium behavior of biological and geological systems through the application of modern experimental and computational tools.
The Division supports basic research that underpins a broad range of energy technologies. Research in chemistry has led to advances such as efficient combustion systems with reduced emissions of pollutants; new solar photoconversion processes; improved catalysts for the production of fuels and chemicals; and better separations and analytical methods for applications in energy processes, environmental remediation, and waste management. Research in geosciences results in advanced monitoring and measurement techniques for reservoir definition and an understanding of the fluid dynamics of complex fluids through porous and fractured subsurface rock. Research in the molecular and biochemical nature of photosynthesis aids the development of solar photo-energy conversion.
The Division also plays a major role in enabling the nanoscale revolution. The importance of nanoscience to future energy technologies is clearly reflected by the fact that all of the elementary steps of energy conversion (e.g., charge transfer, molecular rearrangement, and chemical reactions) take place on the nanoscale.