Jens Nørskov is a professor of chemical engineering and photon science and the director of SUNCAT Center for Interface Science and Catalysis at Stanford University and SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. Nørskov received his PhD in theoretical physics at the University of Aarhus, Denmark in 1979. Following his PhD, he served as a research fellow, post doctoral researcher and staff scientist at several institutions including the Nordic Institute for Theoretical Physics, IBM T. J. Watson Research Center and Haldor Topsøe. In 1987 he started as research professor at the Technical University of Denmark and was named professor of physics in 1992. In 2010 he moved to Stanford University and SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. Jens Nørskov’s research aims at developing theoretical methods and concepts to understand and predict properties of materials. He is particularly interested in surface chemical properties, heterogeneous catalysis, electro-catalysis and the link to enzyme function. Jens Nørskov has received a number of awards and honors, most recently the Michel Boudart Award for the Advancement of Catalysis. He holds honorary doctorates at the Technical University of Eindhoven and at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. He is a member of the Royal Danish Academy of Science and Letters and the Danish Academy of Engineering.
Essentially all sustainable energy systems rely on the energy influx from the sun. In order to store solar energy it is most conveniently transformed into a chemical form, a fuel. The key to provide an efficient transformation of energy to a chemical form is the availability of suitable catalysts, and we will need to find new catalysts for a number of processes if we are to successfully synthesize fuels from sunlight. Insight into the way the catalysts work at the molecular level may prove essential to speed up the discovery process. The lecture will discuss some of the challenges to catalyst discovery, the associated challenges to science as well as some approaches to molecular level catalyst design. Specific examples will include the (photo-)electrochemical oxygen evolution and hydrogen evolution reactions, carbon dioxide reduction, and biomass transformation reactions.