Power tools

A chemist leads a West Campus quest for renewable energy.

Michael Marsland

Michael Marsland

Gary Brudvig will direct Yale's new Energy Sciences Institute, which will recruit scientists to study new energy technologies. View full image

As Gary Brudvig begins recruiting faculty for Yale’s new Energy Sciences Institute, launched last summer, he’ll be fulfilling an idea that emerged almost from the moment Yale bought the former Bayer Pharmaceutical complex—now known as the West Campus—five years ago.

“When Yale first bought the campus, we had some workshops with a lot of different faculty where we asked what directions to pursue,” says Brudvig, “and energy rose to the top of the list in every group.” As a nation, “we get most of our energy from fossil fuels, and we need to think about how we transition out of that.”

Brudvig, the Benjamin Silliman Professor of Chemistry, was recently appointed to a three-year term as director of the new institute, which will provide space and support for interdisciplinary projects related to generating and storing energy from renewable sources. One current project, which Brudvig is involved in, studies how solar power can generate the chemical reactions necessary to split water into oxygen and hydrogen, which could then be used to produce a fuel like alcohol. A process like that could essentially allow solar energy to be stored. In another project, faculty in geology and geophysics are looking at ways of sequestering carbon dioxide in rocks in order to reduce the negative effects of this greenhouse gas.

Right now those are the institute’s only two projects. But Brudvig is recruiting at least four new faculty this year, each of whom would have their own research staff. Eventually the institute could have up to ten senior faculty.

“We’re a lot smaller than a lot of other places in this area,” he says. “We’ll probably never be as big as some of the state universities. But one of the exciting things about the new campus is that we’ll be able to grow this kind of work quite a bit.”  

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