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Solar star

Mita Dasog, Assistant Professor of Chemistry, focuses on discovering and developing cheaper, safer and more efficient materials and technologies for use in harvesting and storing solar energy.

Foundation: Rather than focussing on a single aspect of the energy-storage problem, Dr. Dasog’s research covers the whole gamut from creating semiconductors that can better absorb sunlight to finding earth-abundant catalysts for use in converting that energy into storable fuels and other chemical feedstocks.

Inspiration: A trip to Germany in 2013 to receive a “Top 25” Global Young Scientists in Sustainable Research Award was a turning point for Dr. Dasog, then still a PhD student. Discussions with policy makers, industry insiders and other scientists from around the world left her with a deeper appreciation for just how negatively some countries have been affected by climate change, particularly those dependent on agriculture or vulnerable to extreme weather.

in her words “We take inspiration from nature and photosynthesis. During daylight, plants take sunlight and use that sunlight to convert carbon dioxide into carbohydrate materials, storing energy in chemical bonds. Next to nuclear energy, chemical energy is the densest form of energy available to us. That’s the idea behind what we do.”

Why it matters Technology requires long-term thinking, says Dr. Dasog, noting that material choices have to be abundant and non-toxic. While there are a couple of large-scale plants using similar processes already in operation, she says they are very expensive to run. “For more people to use a given technology, things have to be very cheap,” she says. “We are fighting against the cost right now, but hopefully in the next five years we will get there.”