Yesterday (May 26) the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBL) unveiled its newest building, the Solar Energy Research Center (SERC), named Chu Hall. The new, 40,000 square foot, research center is named after Steven Chu, the most recent former DOE Secretary and Nobel Prize-winning scientist.
“We believe the opening of this building will provide a significant boost to solar fuels research,” says Berkeley Lab Director Paul Alivisatos. “It puts our researchers, from various disciplines, together in a single space, close to UC Berkeley and Berkeley Lab colleagues studying similar challenges.” Previously, JCAP researchers were in a leased space in West Berkeley.
“Steve’s commitment to ground-breaking science is really one of the reasons we’re naming this building after him,” Alivisatos explained. “We felt that his service to our lab, and to the country as Energy Secretary, could best be acknowledged by today’s naming.”
The new facility will lead investigations into photovoltaics as well as artificial photosynthesis. Scientists are increasing research into developing synthetic and other means of replicating plant photosynthesis as a means to produce new transportation fuels or biofuels. As such the building will house the laboratories and offices of the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis (JCAP).
“What they’re trying to do first is use sunlight and make hydrogen, splitting water,” Chu said during the dedication. He contended that creating inexpensive means to split water, catch carbon dioxide and create transportation fuels is one of the most important things people can do to become sustainable. “We need to save the world and science is going to be at the heart of the solution,” he closed.
“JCAP’s current mission is to demonstrate a scalable, sustainable device that can generate fuels from sunlight and air at least 10 times more efficiently than plants,” says Berkeley Lab’s JCAP head, Frances Houle.
The funding for the new $59 million facility came from the University of California, the California Public Utilities Commission, appropriations from the State of California, and private support from the Simons Foundation, Sea Change Foundation, and Mark Heising and Liz Simons, LBL said. Though not certified yet, the building was designed to meet LEED Gold standards.Tweet