Federal appropriation for South Dakota Catalysis Group

VERMILLION, S.D. -- Alternative energy research in South Dakota gets another boost, with a federal appropriation sponsored by Sen. John Thune. The funding, $924,000, will support the South Dakota Catalysis Group (SDCG) for Alternative Energy, a multi-campus group of researchers led by James Hoefelmeyer, Ph.D., assistant professor of chemistry at The University of South Dakota. The SDCG will conduct research on advanced catalytic materials for solar energy utilization, specifically, hydrogen production and hydrogen fuel cells. The long-term vision of this project is the development, through the application of nanotechnology, of a reactor in which solar energy is used to produce hydrogen and oxygen from water. Ultimately, solar energy is converted to chemical energy and chemical energy is converted to electrical energy.

SDCG includes researchers from USD, South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, and members of two 2010 centers, the Center for Research and Development of Light-activated Materials and Center for Accelerated Applications at the Nanoscale. Additionally, SDCG will partner with the Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and several staff scientists from Department of Energy labs.

With this funding, the SDCG will purchase significant equipment, and support students and postdoctoral researchers. Both undergraduate and graduate students will participate in cutting-edge research on renewable energy solutions – one of the foremost challenges in science today. The new PhD program in Materials Chemistry at USD will be instrumental in attracting new graduate students into this research effort.

Catalytic materials increase the efficiency of chemical reactions. Catalytic processes are a major technological underpinning of modern society and are essential to the energy sector in the processing of chemical fuels from natural resources, synthesis of fine chemicals and energy conversion. Advances in catalyst technology lead to reductions in chemical waste, energy loss and costs. This technology is critical to development of new energy technologies, including fuel-cells, photo-electrochemical cells and photocatalysts for decomposition of pollutants in air or water.

For more information, contact James Hoefelmeyer, Ph.D., at jhoefelm@usd.edu.