Artificial photosynthesis, a process in which the light energy is converted into the chemical bond, represents an important area of research aimed toward generation of Sun-derived fuels and value-added chemicals. To successfully utilize photons from Sun, such solar reactors need to contain light-absorbing chromophores that efficiently and rapidly channel the absorbed energy toward desired catalytic sites where useful chemistry can takes place with high selectivity and low kinetic barriers. The Glusac group investigates molecular chromophores and catalysts for artificial photosynthesis. We utilize advanced time-resolved laser spectroscopy techniques to investigate mechanisms of energy and charge migration in molecular excited states and evaluate the parameters that control undesired energy losses through fast charge recombination. We also explore molecular electrocatalysts that are able to receive electrons and holes from excited chromophores and covert then into desired products.
Three projects are currently under investigation in our labs: (i) Bio-inspired CO2 reduction using metal-free NAD+/NADH analogs, where we look for strong hydride donors that can selectively reduce CO2 to methanol and that can be recycled photochemically; (ii) Light-harvesting by graphene quantum dot assemblies, where we explore excited-state energy and charge redistributions in chromophore-catalyst assemblies using advanced time-resolved laser spectroscopy methods; (iii) Carbon-based platforms for electrocatalysis. In this project, we investigate methods to decorate carbon electrodes with molecular catalytic motifs that can perform useful chemistry.