Center for Sustainable Energy at Notre Dame

2015 Distinguished Lectures

2015 Schedule

January 21 Peter Littlewood, Director, Argonne National Laboratory
February 19 Vikram Dalal, Director, Microelectronics Research Center
March 18 Bruce Huber, Professor of Law, University of Notre Dame
March 30 Paul Mulvaney, ARC Laureate Professor, The University of Melbourne, Australia
April 16 Thomas Meyer, Director, Energy Frontier Research Center on Solar Fuels
October 6, Gwyneth Cravens, American Novelist and Journalist
October 8, Energy Policy Forum


Wednesday, January 21
4:00 - 5:00pm, Nieuwland Science Hall, Room 118
"Physics of Sustainability"

Dr. Peter Littlewood, Director, Argonne National Laboratory

Until about two centuries ago, before the industrial revolution was powered by fossil fuels, we lived on this planet supported by the energy resources of the sun. Within another century or so we may have to return to the sun as our principal source of energy. Can we do that, while supporting continued improvement in our standard of living? In a recent international poll* 71% thought their country "could almost entirely replace coal and nuclear energy within 20 years by becoming highly energy-efficient and focusing on generating energy from the Sun and wind". Unfortunately, this optimism is not justified by the state of current technologies, either in terms of their efficiency or their cost. However, a review of the fundamental principles suggests that there are modest grounds for optimism in the long term, as long a host of inventions can be brought to fruition.

This talk will take a physicist's perspective on some of the energy and sustainability challenges faced by the planet. I will stress the need for thinking using robust principles to guide the investigation. These include: to realize that global sum rules are much more reliable than addition of small scale phenomena; to understand thermodynamic and other equilibria in the large; to be aware as a scientist that economic, geographical, and social forces set boundaries; to understand that a "kiloWatt hour" is actually a unit of reserve currency.

To the extent that technology rather than conservation can play a role, efficient and low-cost materials technologies for energy capture, storage, transmission, and use will be key. Can we rely on iterative improvements in what we have now, or do we need breakthroughs? If we are to have such breakthroughs, what is possible within the constraints of fundamental physical laws? How much headroom is there for new technologies?

Peter B. Littlewood is the Director of Argonne National Laboratory, one of the nation’s largest science and engineering research centers, and a Professor of Physics in the James Franck Institute at the University of Chicago.

Top of page



Thursday, February 19
11:00 - 12:00, Radiation Lab Auditorium
"Vapor Deposited Perovskite Cells:  Electronic Properties and Structural Stability"

Professor Vikram Dalal, Director, Microelectronics Research Center
Distinguished Professor of Engineering, Iowa State University

Perovskite solar cells are clearly the new frontier in solar energy conversion. They have the potential of significantly increasing the efficiency of crystalline Si solar cells to 30% range when used in a tandem cell arrangement. In this talk, I will discuss an all vapor-phase deposition process for making perovskite cells, and the detailed electronic properties of perovskite cells deposited using both methyl ammonium iodide and formamine iodide precursors. I will discuss the fundamental thermally-induced structural instability of both material systems. Both n-i-p and p-i-n types of cells will be described along with the relative advantages of each type.

Dr. Vikram Dalal is Anson Marston Distinguished Professor of Engineering at Iowa State University, and also holds the Whitney Chair in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at Iowa State. He obtained his B.E. (EE) from University of Bombay, India in 1964, and his Ph.D. in EE from Princeton in 1969. He also holds a M.P.A. (Economics) Degree from Princeton. He has extensive experience in both industry and academia, and has been at Iowa State since 1988. He is a Fellow of IEEE, American Physical Society and AAAS.

Top of page



Wednesday, March 18
3:30pm - 4:30pm, Nieuwland Science Hall
"Environmental Protection Agency: Clean Power Plan"

Dr. Bruce Huber, Professor of Law, University of Notre Dame
Slide Presentation


Dr. Huber will discuss the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's proposed rule limiting carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from existing power plants. This rule seeks to cut CO2 emissions by 30 percent by 2030. Dr. Huber will explain the proposed rule and the impact it could have on the power supply in Indiana and other parts of the United States. This lecture is certain to be informative and thought-provoking as Dr. Huber shares his legal perspective on the new rule and how it will be addressed by state governments and the industry.

Dr. Huber teaches and conducts research in the areas of environmental law, natural resources law, property, and energy law. He joined the Notre Dame law faculty in 2011. After earning his undergraduate degree at Stanford University, Professor Huber received his J.D. and a Ph.D. in Political Science at the University of California, Berkeley, where he earned several teaching awards. Before arriving at Notre Dame, he taught for several years in the Department of Government at Dartmouth College. He has also practiced law in Washington State and worked as a college minister for a large Presbyterian church.

Professor Huber's research emphasizes the interaction between law and politics. Generally, his publications address emissions trading and regulation, pollution control, energy regulation, pesticide regulation, and public land and resource management. Much of his work explores how environmental and energy law deal with industries and individuals who stand to be adversely impacted by proposed regulatory or legal changes, and how such actors often obtain favorable legal treatment. He has presented his work at numerous events and conferences and has been quoted in the national media on matters related to his research.


Top of page



Monday, March 30
4:00pm - 5:00pm, 127 Nieuwland Science Hall
"Gold Nanocrystals: Single Particle Catalysis, Energy Transfer and Superlattice Dynamics"

Dr. Paul Mulvaney, The University of Melbourne, Australia
ARC Laureate Professor, School of Chemistry

In this talk, Professor Mulvaney will provide an overview of some of his recent work on three aspects of the chemistry of gold nanocrystals. In the first part, we study chemical reactions on single nanoparticles. We show how electron transfer can be observed spectroscopically and how even processes such as hydrogen adsorption can be detected. We show that the interaction of the metal nanocrystal with the support matrix is crucial in determining reactivity. We will show a method called capillary force assembly for creating libraries of single catalyst particles.

In the second system, we study energy transfer from dye molecules to metal particles. We have used silica as a nanoscale spacer. We show that for small gold particles (15nm in size) the gold particle acts as a quencher at all separations. Full electrodynamic calculations agree well with the experiment and show that quenching obeys a d-4 distance dependence.

Finally, we describe NIPAM spacers as a temperature-tunable spacer. The use of polymer shells to control surface plasmon interactions is discussed and the possibility of light driven chemistry in plasmonic systems by local plasmonic heating. We demonstrate nanosecond based superlattice melting as a means to study the dynamics of colloidal crystal formation.

Paul Mulvaney is an ARC Laureate Fellow and Professor of Chemistry in the School of Chemistry and Bio21 Institute at the University of Melbourne. He received his PhD degree at the University of Melbourne in 1989, working on surface electron transfer reactions with Professor Franz Grieser.

His current interests include the optical properties of single quantum dots, surface plasmon spectroscopy of single metal particles, nanocrystal based electronics, nanomechanics and solar energy conversion. To date he has published some 230 scientific papers averaging around 90 citations per publication. The Nanoscience Laboratory at the University of Melbourne focuses on the chemistry and physics of nanoscale materials, particularly optical properties. The Laboratory has 4 postdoctoral researchers and 12 PhD students and group members come from numerous countries including Brazil, Venezuela, Germany, US, Singapore and Canada. Current funding comes from the Australian Research Council (ARC), DEST, Humboldt Foundation in Germany, ICI (UK) and the Ludwig Cancer Institute. The NSL collaborates with a number of Australian and international centres including the Technical University and the Frei University (Berlin), CSIRO, CSIC Madrid (Spain), Notre Dame (US), Padua (Italy) and Max-Planck Institute Potsdam.

Professor Mulvaney currently serves as an Associate Editor for the journal ACS Nano and is a member of the editorial advisory boards of Advanced Functional Materials, NanoToday, Journal of Physical Chemistry, Langmuir and PCCP.

Top of page



Thursday, April 16
4:00pm - 5:00pm, 107 Carey Auditorium, Hesburgh Library
"Making Oxygen from Sunlight and Water"

Dr. Thomas J. Meyer, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Arey Professor of Chemistry
Director of the Energy Frontier Research Center on Solar Fuels
Slide Presentation

The sun could be our ultimate renewable energy source but, as an energy source, suffers from its low intensity, and the massive collection areas required to meet the needs of powering the world’s growing economies. The sun is also intermittent, going down at night, which creates a need for energy storage on massive scales.  Inspired by natural photosynthesis, a way to meet the energy storage challenge is by using the energy of the sun to produce “solar fuels” by “Artificial Photosynthesis” with energy stored in the chemical bonds of high energy molecules - hydrogen from water splitting or carbon-based fuels from reduction of CO2.

In this presentation, a hybrid approach to solar fuels is described. It is based on the integration of molecular assemblies for light absorption and catalysis with the band gap and surface properties of mesoscopic, nanoparticle films of inert metal oxides – TiO2, SnO2, NiO. In the resulting Dye Sensitized Photoelectrosynthesis Cells (DSPEC), light absorption by the chromophore and excited state injection into the conduction band of TiO2 initiates a series of electron transfer events. Transfer of the injected electron transfer to a cathode results in Hevolution. With appropriate design features built in, including surface stabilization of the assembly and use of core/shell structured oxide films, relatively high per photon-absorbed efficiencies for visible light water splitting into hydrogen and oxygen has been achieved.


Thomas J. Meyer rejoined the faculty of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as Arey Professor of Chemistry on July 1, 2005. He is Director of the UNC Energy Frontier Research Center on Solar Fuels. In 2000 he was named Associate Director for Strategic Research at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. In that position, he oversaw research in support of nuclear weapons, threat reduction, and energy and environmental programs and was the   LANL lead for economic development, intellectual property, and DOE programs in Science, Energy Efficiency and Renewables, and Nuclear Energy. He also served as the LANL liaison in these areas to the US Department of Energy and to the US Congress. From 1994 to 1999, he was Vice Chancellor for Graduate Studies and Research at UNC-CH where he oversaw a graduate and professional student program of over 8000 students and a research portfolio of > $300 million. He led planning efforts that resulted in campus wide initiatives in genomics and bioinformatics, Arts Carolina, The Center for the Study of the American South, and others. As a UNC liaison with the North Carolina Legislature, he initiated efforts that led to $12 M in enhanced graduate tuition student support, return of overhead to the campuses from the NC General Fund, and initiated planning for construction that ultimately led to a bond issue passed by the citizens of North Carolina in 2000.

After receiving a BS from Ohio University in 1963, Meyer received a Ph.D. from Stanford in 1966 with Henry Taube, who won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1983, as his research mentor. He was a NATO postdoctoral fellow at University College, London in 1967 with Sir Ronald Nyholm, joined the faculty at UNC in 1968, and was promoted to Associate Professor in 1972, Full Professor in 1975, Smith Professor in 1982, and Kenan Professor in 1987. He was the Head of Chemistry from 1985 to 1990, Chair of the Curriculum in Applied Sciences from 1991 to1994, and Vice Chancellor/Vice Provost for Graduate Studies and Research from 1994 to 1999. He served on the North Carolina Board of Science and Technology, the Executive Committees of the North Carolina Biotechnology Center, the Research Triangle Institute, the Triangle University Center for Advanced Study Inc., and on the Board of Associated Universities Inc. He has served on the Boards of the Mind Institute, the International Informatics Society, the National Center for Genome Research, the Coronado Ventures Forum, the Science and Technology External Advisory Committee for Sandia National Laboratory, the Commission on Higher Education for the State of New Mexico, and Chair of the Scientific Advisory Board for the Center for Revolutionary Solar Photoconversion (Colorado). He was awarded the Order of the Long Leaf Pine for service to the State of North Carolina in 1999, the Porter Medal in 2012, the Honda-Fujishima Lectureship Award in 2013, and most recently the 2014 Samson Prime Minister's Prize for Innovation in Alternative Fuels for Transportation.

Meyer is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and has won many prizes for chemical research. His research has been notable for pioneering, innovative discoveries in chemical reactivity and applications to important problems in chemistry and energy conversion. This includes the first examples of excited state electron transfer with implications for energy conversion (with D.G. Whitten, 1974), excited state electron transfer in a chromophore-quencher assembly (1978), polypyridyl Ru oxo complexes (1978), discovery of proton coupled electron transfer (PCET, 1981), vinyl polymerization of metal complexes (with R.W. Murray, 1981) molecular catalyst for water oxidation (1982), application of the energy gap law to metal complex excited states (1982), chemical approaches to  artificial photosynthesis (1989), first interfacial catalyst for CO2 reduction (1989), Dye Sensitized Photoelectrosynthesis Cells (DSPEC,  1999), experimental elucidation of the localized-to-delocalized transition in mixed-valence molecules (2001), Modular Approach to Artificial Photosynthesis (2005), first characterized solution and interfacial single-site catalysts for water oxidation (2008-2010), and a working DSPEC for solar water splitting (2013). He has published over 700 papers, holds five patents, and is one of the most highly cited chemists in the world.

Top of page



Tuesday, October 6
4:00pm - 5:00pm, Washington Hall Auditorium
"Can We Save the World With Nuclear Energy"

Gwyneth Cravens, American Novelist and Journalist


In the book, "Power to Save the World: The Truth about Nuclear Energy," Cravens documents her eight-year journey through the nuclear world, her encounters with scientists from many different disciplines, and her shift from skeptic to supporter of nuclear power as the safest, greenest, and most efficient technology for large-scale mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions. This talk will be followed by a panel discussion of Notre Dame faculty experts and questions from the audience. In addition, it is ND Energy's intention to use this event as a springboard to future discussions throughout the year on energy policy issues and topics of major importance to our global communities.

Cravens is best known for her writings on nuclear power as a safe and reliable alternative energy source and one that is an essential preventive of global warming.  She has contributed numerous articles and given countless talks on nuclear energy, emphasizing the need for environmental and technical communities to work together to reduce the anthropogenic causes of catastrophic climate change.  She has published five novels and contributed articles on science and other topics to The New YorkerThe New York TimesHarper’sThe Washington PostDiscoverHuffington PostThe Brookings Institution Review, and other publications.  She worked as an editor at The New Yorker and as an associate editor at Harper’s, and for several years wrote a literary column for The Nation.  She grew up in New Mexico and now lives on eastern Long Island.

Panel Moderator:  


 Dr. Michael Desch, Professor and Chair of the Department of Political Science at the University of Notre Dame 



Dr. Peter Burns, The Henry J. Massman Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences, Concurrent Professor in Chemistry and Biochemistry, Director of ND Energy, and Director of the Energy Frontiers Research Center on the Materials Science of Actinide



Dr. Don Howard, Professor of Philosophy and Fellow of the John J. Reilly Center for Science, Technology, and Value



Dr. Prashant Kamat, Rev. John A. Zahm Professor of Science, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, and Concurrent Professor, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry

Top of page


Thursday, October 8
7:00 pm, Washington Hall Auditorium
Energy Policy Forum: "Policy for a New Energy Future - Can Public and Private Sectors Unite to Fuel the Clean Economy?"

Public and private interests in the energy future of the United States are trying to push us in different directions. Panelists will offer insights into conflicting short-term and long-term energy policy, who is or should be controlling it, and what the consequences and benefits of a united policy would be. 



Robert N. Schleckser (ND ’78)
Vice President and Treasurer
ExxonMobil Corporation



James Mueller (ND ’04)
Chief of Staff
City of South Bend



Bruce Huber
Associate Professor of Law
University of Notre Dame


Top of page