Tuesday, August 09, 2005
I feel like such a slacker:
- Daniel Nocera arrives at his office at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology by 7 a.m., goes home 13 hours later - where he often reads papers or e-mails students much of the night - and returns to his labs on weekends. Vacations? None, really, unless you count chemistry conferences.
After all, trying to save the world is hard work.
If you ever wonder about how the world will produce enough energy to supply 9 billion people by mid-century - and whether that can be done without pumping off-the-charts amounts of carbon dioxide into the air - meet one of the minds trying to produce an answer.
Nocera, 48, is trying to achieve an old, elusive dream: using the bountiful energy in sunlight to split water into its basic components, hydrogen and oxygen.
- Nocera believes this constant prodding at what's possible is the essence of science. As evidence, he reels off several ancillary developments from his research, including microscopic sensors that detect biological hazards, which attracted funding from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.
Pointing to a whiteboard sketch of his vision for using sunlight to split water, Nocera acknowledges that it ultimately might not be an energy panacea.
"Is it right? Maybe not. But it will be something. And it might be something I can't see right now," he says. "That's OK. But you don't stop doing something because you can't see it. It's antiscientific. It's anti-intellectual."