Next Generation Photovoltaics & Solar Fuels

Solar Energy Research Center

To address the challenges of creating a sustainable energy future, the Solar Energy Research Center, SERC, has been established at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, UNC, one of the top five public research universities in the United States.

Led by a distinguished faculty, including members of the National Academy of Sciences and National Academy of Engineering, UNC-SERC will leverage key discoveries made at UNC during the past 20 years, and with other universities, national laboratories, and industry, to form a critical mass of scientists collaborating on energy-related research. The diversity and breadth of the Center will enable it to respond to funding opportunities, including the recent award of a DOE-Energy Frontier Research Center (EFRC).

The UNC EFRC will be housed at UNCH-CH, but as a partnership with North Carolina Central University, North Carolina State University, Duke University, and the University of Florida. This initiative will solidify North Carolina’s role in the energy sciences.

Solar Fuels

Research in Solar Fuels will integrate light absorption and electron transfer driven catalysis in molecular assemblies and composite materials to create efficient devices for splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen, and reducing CO2 to methanol and hydrocarbons. Primary goals will be elucidation of mechanisms via cutting edge experimental and theoretical methods, discovery of new catalytic systems, and structure integration across multiple length scales in working devices.

Next Generation Photovoltaics

Research in Next-Generation Photovoltaics will focus on structurally controlled molecular assemblies and composites. Significant objectives will include synthesis of new low-bandgap polymers, measurement and analysis of exciton dynamics and energy and charge transport, and design of new interfaces amenable to roll-to-roll nanostructure fabrication.


Advanced Spectroscopy and Theory

Supporting both research areas, the Advanced Spectroscopy and Theory Group, ASTG, will provide cutting edge experimental methods and analysis of experimental data. ASTG will become a national and international leader in theoretical studies on analysis and prediction of underpinning scientific phenomena.

Management & Infrastructure

UNC-SERC will be housed in the UNC College of Arts and Sciences. It will also benefit from a partnership with the Institute for Advanced Materials and its infrastructure and professional staff.


UNC-SERC will manage an EFRC budget of $17.5 million over five years along with significant matching fund support from UNC. To ensure research focus and continuity, EFRC will practice continuous research oversight and review through internal and external advisory committees. Seed money will be allocated to fund new ideas and broaden the research base for evolving into new research areas as appropriate.


As part of UNC SERC, UNC EFRC is a collaborative venture with Duke University, North Carolina Central University, North Carolina State University and University of Florida.

Its activities will be integrated with the UNC-CH Institute for the Environment and with the Research Triangle Energy Consortium (RTEC), the latter a research consortium consisting of UNC-CH, Duke University, North Carolina State University, and Research Triangle Institute. UNC-SERC and the EFRC will develop and support collaborative research with individuals and institutions in North Carolina and the Southeast, combining the best features of research and research management in academia with those in the national laboratories to create a sustained, world-class research effort.