Daniel G. Nocera is the Henry Dreyfus Professor of Energy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Director of the Solar Revolutions Project and Director of the Eni Solar Frontiers Center at MIT. His group pioneered studies of the basic mechanisms of energy conversion in biology and chemistry with primary focus in recent years on the generation of solar fuels. Solar fuel reactions require the coupling of multielectron processes to protons, which are energetically uphill, thus requiring a light input. Nocera has pioneered each of these areas of science. This work has relied on the generalization of the concept of two-electron mixed-valency in chemistry. He created the field of proton-coupled electron transfer (PCET) at a mechanistic level with the publication of the first ultrafast laser study of an electron transfer through a hydrogen bonded interface. With the frameworks of multielectron chemistry and PCET in place, he has recently accomplished a solar fuels process that captures many of the elements of photosynthesis outside of the leaf. This discovery of artificial photosynthesis sets the stage for a storage mechanism for the large scale, distributed, deployment of solar energy. Recently, he was awarded the Elizabeth Wood Award (2010), MJ Collins Award (2010), and the Roseman Award (2010), along with many others, for his contributions to the development of renewable energy. He was named as one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World.
Nocera has been an organizer to and primary author of four DOE Basic Research Need workshops: Hydrogen, Solar Energy, Energy Storage and Catalysis and he was a primary author of the Grand Challenges report (Directing Matter and Energy: Five Challenges for Science and the Imagination) to the DOE. He was also an author of the report to chart a course for energy research at MIT and he is a lead author on the MIT Study on the Future of Solar Energy. Nocera began the first Gordon Research Conference (GRC) on Renewable Energy, which was held in January 2007. He has designed permanent exhibits on energy for the MIT Museum, the Boston Museum of Science and Oregon Museum of Science and Industry.
Nocera is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. He is a frequent guest on television, radio and is regularly featured in print. His 2006 PBS show was nominated for an Emmy Award. He worked with Robert Krulwich of ABC News to develop the pilot that was used to launch the PBS NOVA show, ScienceNow, which is now a regularly scheduled science program on PBS. Nocera also worked with Mr. Krulwich and the web designer OddTodd to develop a five part series on The Lifestyle of Carbon. He opened the Mountain Film Festival 2007 in Telluride CO, the Aspen Forum in Aspen CO in 2008 and 2009, and the World Science Festival in NYC in 2008. In 2008, he founded Sun Catalytix, a company committed to bringing personalized energy to the non-legacy world.