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Department of Chemistry


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Faculty - Alternative Energy

Chemistry and Alternative Energy

Energy consumption is a major global challenge to achieving a sustainable planet. The combustion of fossil fuels is slowly changing the composition of Earth’s atmosphere, resulting in CO2 levels higher than have occurred in the past 600 thousand years, and is probably causing climate change. Developing alternative sources of safer, cleaner, renewable energy is a goal of green chemistry. Solar, wind, and biofuels can each play a role in providing alternative energy. A major challenge of harnessing the sun and wind is the need for energy storage. Chemists are contributing to development of new technologies through improved batteries, new materials for photovoltaics, better catalysts for splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen, and fuels cells to convert hydrogen and oxygen into electricity. While much of our energy infrastructure may be converted to electricity from wind and sun, high energy density fuels will continue to be required for transportation. Liquid fuels (gasoline, diesel, jet fuel) contain hundreds of times more energy per weight than any other source. Conversion of renewable biomass sources into liquid transportation fuels, through thermochemical, biological and fermentation pathways, is fundamentally a chemical problem, but practical solutions require the contributions of multiple science and engineering disciplines which is facilitated at UMaine through the Forest Bioproducts Research Initiative (FBRI).

UMaine chemists are involved in efforts to utilize low value wood and other biomass through several routes. Fungi have evolved enzymes that break down lignocellulosic biomass into sugars, which can subsequently be fermented to produce alcohols. Alternatively, heating biomass with or without oxygen leads to liquid fuels, known as bio-oils, that require catalytic treatment similar to petroleumrefining to achieve high energy density. On the energy storage side, chemists are also developing better fuel cells for conversion of fuels into electricity. We invite you to learn more about these projects from the faculty pages below.

Contact Information Research
François G. Amar
253 Aubert Hall
(207)581-1196
amar@maine.edu
Physical
Biological
Alt. Energy
Chem Ed
Mitchell Bruce
277 Aubert Hall
(207) 581-1190
mbruce@maine.edu
Inorganic
Biological
Environmental
Alt. Energy
Chem Ed
Barbara J. W. Cole 241 Aubert Hall
(207) 581-1188
cole@maine.edu
Wood
Organic
Analytical
Biological
Environmental
Alt. Energy
Raymond C. Fort, Jr. 252 Aubert Hall
(207) 581-1180
rcfort@maine.edu
Organic
Wood
Physical
Biological
Environmental
Alt. Energy
Brian G. Frederick
251 Aubert/151 ESRB
(207)-581-2268
brian.frederick@umit.maine.edu
Physical
Nano/Materials
Alt. Energy
Wood
Bruce L. Jensen 177 Aubert Hall
(207) 581-1177
bruce.jensen@umit.maine.edu
Organic
Alt. Energy
Biological
Chem Ed

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Contact Information

Department of Chemistry
156 Aubert Hall
Orono, ME 04469
Phone: (207)-581-1169 | Fax: (207)-581-1191
The University of Maine
Orono, Maine 04469
207.581.1110
A Member of the University of Maine System