With his recent work identified as one of the Top 100 Stories of 2014 by Discover Magazine, the beginning of 2015 has been an ideal time to catch up with Energy 2030 Contributor Alán Aspuru-Guzik.

Clockwise, from left: Dr. Changwon Suh, Prof. Roy G. Gordon, Dr. Brian Huskinson, Dr. Suleyman Er, Dr. Michael Marshak, Prof. Alán Aspuru-Guzik, Prof. Michael J. Aziz, Michael Gerhardt, and Lauren Hartle. (Photo by Eliza Grinnell, SEAS Communications.)
A Professor in Harvard’s Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, Alán Aspuru-Guzik leads an innovative research group that focuses on, among other things, high-throughput computational materials design, quantum information and quantum computation for chemistry, and quantum effects in biology.

Alán and his experimental colleagues Michael Aziz and Roy Gordon, also from Harvard, are in the news for developing a metal-free organic–inorganic aqueous flow battery; a battery that has the potential to dramatically reduce the cost of large scale energy storage. Their research group has developed prototype that uses quinones – a class of carbon-containing molecules – to move electrons instead of the expensive rare metals used in conventional batteries.

Alán’s research group also leads the Harvard Clean Energy Project (CEP), a theory-driven search for the next generation of organic solar cell materials. By using donated computer idle time to assess computer models of millions of molecules, the CEP identifies compounds that are suitable for capturing solar energy. It is the largest-ever computational study using quantum chemistry.

Ask Alán
What key lesson have you learned about working in the energy sector?

Integrated experiment-theory partnerships can drastically accelerate materials discovery.

What do you think will be the most impactful energy story of 2015?

It is hard to predict, but I hope it is a computationally-driven materials discovery story. We are working hard to discover the next generation all-organic molecular flow battery.

Alán at Energy 2030
Waste Not, Want Not Plenary Session

Energy: The Problem We’ve Created on TVO’s The Agenda

Selected Publications
Süleyman Er, Changwon Suh, Michael P. Marshak, and Alán Aspuru-Guzik. Computational design of molecules for an all-quinone redox flow battery. Chemical Science (2015). (Accepted)

Brian Huskinson, Michael P. Marshak, Changwon Suh, Süleyman Er, Michael R. Gerhardt, Cooper J. Galvin, Xudong Chen, Alán Aspuru-Guzik, Roy G. Gordon, and Michael J. Aziz. A metal-free organic–inorganic aqueous flow battery. Nature 505 (2014): 195–198.

Johannes Hachmann, Roberto Olivares-Amaya, Adrian Jinich, Anthony L. Appleton, Martin A. Blood-Forsythe, László R. Seress, Carolina Román-Salgado, Kai Trepte, Sule Atahan-Evrenk, Süleyman Er, Supriya Shrestha, Rajib Mondal, Anatoliy Sokolov, Zhenan Bao, and Alán Aspuru-Guzik. Lead candidates for high-performance organic photovoltaics from high-throughput quantum chemistry – the Harvard Clean Energy Project. Energy & Environmental Science 7, no. 2 (2014): 698-704.