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  • Writer's pictureSolar Chemicals Network

Daniele Benetti reports on the Gordon Conference, Ventura, USA

I am incredibly grateful for the support of the Solar Chemical Network, which made my participation to the “Renewable Energy: Solar Fuels" series by the Gordon Research Conference possible. For anyone looking to make meaningful connections and drive their research forward in a collaborative, supportive environment, I believe the GRC is an event not to be missed.

The 2024 conference showcased cutting-edge materials, catalysts, system designs, and an enhanced understanding of their functions. It fostered a collaborative environment for both emerging and established researchers, featuring discussions, poster sessions, and opportunities for informal exchanges, promoting interdisciplinary exchanges.

A notable area of discussion was the reduction of CO2 on semiconductor surfaces, particularly silicon, and the use of molecular catalysts. The presentations explored the fundamental concepts and design strategies necessary for integrating semiconductors with molecular catalysts to facilitate the production of solar fuels. Emphasis was placed on modifying molecular catalysts, with a focus on cobalt-based materials, to precisely control the catalyst's local environment at a molecular level, thereby directing reactivity towards desired pathways.

Additionally, the importance of bipolar membranes in the development of solar fuels was highlighted, underscoring their potential to significantly enhance the efficiency and feasibility of these technologies. The discussions also focused on operando studies, emphasizing the critical need to understand the mechanisms and kinetics at interfaces and nanoscale levels while also considering the implications of scaling up the devices on the kinetics and selectivity of the processes. Several talks showcased the promising future of operando studies, with comprehensive insights into real-time processes and their optimization for large-scale applications.

Beyond the great talks and research discussions, what stood out to me was the unique atmosphere the conference promoted for networking and personal growth. It provided me with many opportunities to connect with both new and familiar faces in my field, fostering discussions that extended well beyond the conference rooms. The intentional structuring of the conference was made to facilitate these connections. The breaks, social gatherings, and even the dining arrangements were all designed to encourage interactions. This environment proved to be incredibly fruitful for expanding my professional network and exploring potential collaborations, particularly with peers from Canada and the USA, which was a personal goal of mine.

Overall it was the informal, spontaneous discussions that I found most enriching. These conversations, whether over coffee or during a poster session, allowed me to see the diverse perspectives and challenges we face in our field, fostering a sense of community and shared purpose.The conference provided an unparalleled platform to grow my network and expand my collaborations across continents. It reminded me of the importance of community in science and the power of coming together to share ideas, challenges, and solutions.

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