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Yusuf Hamied Department of Chemistry

Headshot of Erwin Reisner

Professor Erwin Reisner, courtesy Cambridge Festival

Professor Erwin Reisner has been awarded a prestigious Royal Academy of Engineering Chair in Emerging Technologies.

The £2.5million award will enable Reisner and his team to focus on their ten-year mission to develop solar chemical technologies to enable lab-to-market transition, a crucial step in the drive to a carbon neutral economy. The group is developing a number of technologies which harness solar power instead of fossil fuels to create the essential chemical pre-cursors to agriculture, plastics, pharmaceuticals and many other products used world-wide. 

The team is developing technologies such as artificial leaves, which convert solar energy and water into hydrogen, and solar reforming, which uses only waste, water and sunlight to produce green hydrogen fuel and chemicals to help decarbonise the transport and chemical sectors. A recent review in Nature Reviews Chemistry gives an overview of plans for the technology.

Reisner's ambition is to found the Cambridge Circular Chemistry Centre in the department of chemistry, which will accelerate the multi-disciplinary research and engineering that is needed to support the transition of solar chemical technologies to enable a circular chemical industries in a net zero future.

He and his team are committed to make a contribution to combat the multiple global dangers the world faces from climate change and environmental destruction. He plans to raise £3 to £5 million in funding from donations to launch the centre in the next two years, and a total of £20 million over the next 10 years to bring this visionary plan to fruition.

Reisner's lecture on "Capturing sunlight for a sustainable future" at the Chemistry Open Day makes a case for solar energy and the need--and growing ability--to produce sustainable fuels and chemicals for energy storage, transportation and the chemical industry. The lecture will be available soon on the Chemistry YouTube channel.