Skip to Main Content GCEP Home Page
2011 Distinguished Lecturers
Jim Swartz Photo

Distinguished Lecturer: James R. Swartz
Departments of Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering
Stanford University

Presentation Title: Cost-Effective Production of Hydrogen from Biomass

Abstract:  Professor Swartz and his research team have established a cell-free system for the production of hydrogen from biomass. They have achieved levels at least 10-fold higher than any other biological system reported to date. This very exciting result has arisen from a combination of elegant tweaks to the hydrogen production pathway, which will be discussed during the talk. While the potential energy conversion efficiency of the enzymatic pathway is very high, the overall efficiency of energy content conversion from glucose and xylose to hydrogen will depend upon the durability of the enzyme pathway and ability to integrate this new pathway with pathways already present in cell extracts. Swartz and his group are currently working towards the goal of achieving a durable pathway to deliver energy conversion efficiencies and volumetric productivities greater than those provided by current ethanol production technology. This work forms the basis for cost-effective, large-scale hydrogen production from renewable resources on a commercial scale and could enable a shift away from the use of fossil fuels for hydrogen production.

GCEP: Professor Swartz is currently a principal investigator for the GCEP exploratory effort “Efficient Cell-Free Hydrogen Production from Glucose.” He has also worked on two full-term GCEP programs: “Direct Solar Biohydrogen” and “Biohydrogen Generation.” In all of these activities, Professor Swartz and his research group members set out to develop efficient and economical technology for the biological conversion of solar energy into molecular hydrogen.

GCEP fact sheets:

Biography: Swartz obtained his B.S. in chemical engineering from South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. After working for two years for Union Oil Co. of California, he attended M.I.T. where he earned his M.S. and D.Sc. in chemical engineering and biochemical engineering, respectively. His focus on the development and control of fermentation processes led him to a scientific exchange visit to the U.S.S.R. and to an initial research position at Eli Lilly and Co. in Indianapolis. In 1981, he joined Genentech, where he served in both scientific and managerial positions related to rDNA protein production for nearly 18 years. In 1998, he moved to Stanford University as a Professor of Chemical Engineering focusing on cell-free biology. The following year, he was elected to the National Academy of Engineering, and, in 2003, he additionally became a founding faculty in Stanford’s new Department of Bioengineering. He was named the Leland T. Edwards Professor in the School of Engineering in 2006 and was named the James H. Clark Professor in 2009. He is a founder of Sutro Biopharma, Inc., dedicated to developing cell-free protein pharmaceutical technologies, and of GreenLight Biosciences, a cell-free metabolic engineering company. His research seeks to reproduce and direct complex metabolism in a cell-free environment. Applications include pharmaceutical protein production and evolution, patient-specific cancer vaccines and improved vaccine architectures, biological hydrogen production from sunlight and from biomass, and advanced water purification technology based on aquaporins.

Tom Jaramillo

Distinguished Lecturer: Thomas F. Jaramillo
Department of Chemical Engineering
Stanford University

Presentation Title: Tailoring electrocatalyst materials at the nano-scale: Controlling activity and selectivity for energy conversion reactions

Abstract: : This talk will focus on our efforts to develop catalytic materials for low-temperature, electron-driven production and consumption of chemical fuels. The reactions we seek to catalyze include: (1) H2 generation from water, (2) the synthesis of alcohols and hydrocarbons from CO2, (3) the oxidation of water to O2, and (4) the oxygen reduction reaction. The first three reactions are relevant to the synthesis of chemical fuels from renewable resources (e.g. wind and solar), while reaction (4) is a major technical obstacle at the cathode in fuel cells. Common catalysts for each of these reactions face challenges in terms of activity, selectivity, stability, and/or cost and earth-abundance. Our research group seeks to tailor the surface chemistry of materials through control of morphology, stoichiometry, and surface structure in order to overcome performance barriers, particularly for low-cost, earth-abundant materials.

GCEP: Professor Jaramillo is currently a principal investigator for the GCEP research program “Developing solid-state electrocatalysts based on design principles from nature: The oxidation of water and the reduction of CO2 to fuels.” He also led the exploratory effort “Nanostructured MoS2 and WS2 for the Solar Production of Hydrogen.”

GCEP fact sheets:

Biography: Thomas Francisco Jaramillo is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering at Stanford University. Originally from San Juan, Puerto Rico, Jaramillo came to Stanford University to pursue his B.S. in Chemical Engineering. Jaramillo then continued his education at the University of California at Santa Barbara, earning his M.S. and Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering. Jaramillo then conducted post-doctoral research at the Technical University of Denmark in the Department of Physics, as a Hans Christian Ørsted Post-doctoral Fellow. Jaramillo returned to Stanford in Fall 2007 to start his independent research career, where he has won a number of awards for his research efforts, including the National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER Award (2011), Mohr-Davidow Ventures MDV Innovator Award (2009), the Hellman Faculty Scholar Award (2009), and the NSF BRIGE Award.

Overview of Current Research: One of the most important technical problems facing humanity is the development of a long-term, sustainable energy economy. Although we have the technology and sufficient nuclear and coal reserves to provide energy for centuries’ worth of population growth and economic development, these options could potentially come with catastrophic societal costs. Scientific discovery and technological innovation are the only means by which to address the grand challenge of developing environmentally sound and cost-effective solutions to meet the ever increasing demand for energy, projected to double by 2050.

The Jaramillo research group works in the area of solar fuels, seeking to harness solar energy in order to chemically convert CO2 into usable liquid fuels (for example methanol or iso-octane) in a renewable, sustainable manner. This is a key component in an energy production-consumption cycle in which the there are no net emissions of CO2 into the atmosphere. To accomplish this challenging goal, the group focuses on understanding the chemistry of materials both at their surface and within their bulk in order to engineer nano-scaled materials for light-harvesting and/or catalytic chemical conversion. We adopt a similar approach for materials involved in the consumption of energy in order to improve their efficiency as well.

Shanhui Fan

Distinguished Lecturer: Shanhui Fan
Department of Electrical Engineering
Stanford University

Presentation Title: Nanophotonics for energy and thermal applications

Abstract: Nanophotonic structures, which have structural feature sizes on the order of -- or smaller than -- the wavelength of light, are of fundamental importance in optical engineering because they represent a new regime of light-matter interactions. The use of nanophotonic structures, in turn, lead to new device possibilities in practically any system that involves photons or electromagnetic waves. In this talk, Professor Shanhui Fan will present some of his group’s recent work along the directions of exploiting nanophotonic structures for energy and thermal applications. In the area of energy applications, he will show that the use of nanophotonic structures leads to practical improvement of solar cell performance, as well as the capability of overcoming some of the conventional fundamental limits in solar cell design. In the area of thermal applications, he will show that the use of nanophotonic structures leads to new possibilities for controlling heat flow at nanoscale.

GCEPProfessor Fan is currently a principal investigator on the GCEP research program “Ultra-High Efficiency Thermophotovoltaic Solar Cells Using Metallic Photonic Crystals as Intermediate Absorber and Emitter” and the exploratory effort “Wireless Power Transfer to Moving Vehicles.” He also worked on the completed GCEP program “Nanostructured Metal-Organic Composite Solar Cells.”

GCEP fact sheets:


Shanhui Fan is an Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering at Stanford University. He received his Ph.D. in 1997 in theoretical condensed matter physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and was a research scientist at the Research Laboratory of Electronics at MIT prior to his appointment at Stanford. His research interests are in computational and theoretical studies of solid state and photonic structures and devices, especially photonic crystals, plasmonics, and meta-materials. He has published over 220 refereed journal articles that were cited over 13,000 times, has given over 170 invited talks, and was granted 39 U.S. patents. Fan received a National Science Foundation Career Award (2002), a David and Lucile Packard Fellowship in Science and Engineering (2003), the National Academy of Sciences Award for Initiative in Research (2007), and the Adolph Lomb Medal from the Optical Society of America (2007). He is a Fellow of the American Physical Society, the Optical Society of America, the SPIE, and the IEEE.



© Copyright 2013-2015 Stanford University: Global Climate and Energy Project (GCEP)

Restricted Use of Materials from GCEP Site: User may download materials from GCEP site only for User's own personal, non-commercial use. User may not otherwise copy, reproduce, retransmit, distribute, publish, commercially exploit or otherwise transfer any material without obtaining prior GCEP or author approval.