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  • Professor Emily Carter
    03/23/17 - 9:45 AM to 11:00 AM

    Moscowitz Memorial Lecture: Professor Emily A. Carter

    Albert J. Moscowitz Memorial Lecture

"Sustainable Production of Fuels and Chemicals from First Principles"

Someday the world’s liquid fuels needed for ships and airplanes will come from sustainable sources and low-energy processing. We are far from that day. While that fact is unfortunate, it opens up exciting opportunities for researchers from many different fields to work together to realize that vision. I will report on some of my research group’s contributions toward this goal, as we develop and apply quantum mechanics based simulation methods to unravel mechanisms associated with (photo)electrochemical water oxidation and carbon dioxide reduction at semiconductor electrodes and plasmon-catalyzed bond breaking over metal nanoparticles.  The talk will focus primarily on CO2 photoelectroreduction to fuel precursors but, time permitting, will also outline the potential for plasmonic catalysis to replace, e.g., the energy-intensive Haber-Bosch process. This latter work illustrates the potential to develop a non-thermal, low-pressure, visible-light-based approach to ammonia synthesis and hence to sustainable fertilizer production.

About Professor Carter

Professor Carter is dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Science and the Gerhard R. Andlinger Professor in Energy and the Environment as well as Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and Applied and Computational Mathematics at Princeton University. 

She received her bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1982 (Phi Beta Kappa) and her doctorate in chemistry from Caltech in 1987. After a year as a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Colorado, Boulder, she spent 16 years at UCLA as a professor of chemistry and later also of materials science and engineering. She moved to Princeton University in 2004, where she was the founding director of the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment from 2010-2016. 

The author of more than 350 publications, she has delivered more than 500 invited and plenary lectures all over the world and serves on advisory boards spanning a range of disciplines. Her scholarly work has been recognized by awards from a variety of entities, including the American Chemical Society, the American Physical Society, the Institute of Physics, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Italian Chemical Society, the German Chemical Society, and the International Academy of Quantum Molecular Science. On 2008, Professor Carter was elected to both the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences. In 2016, she was elected to the National Academy of Engineering.


Professor Carter is a theorist/computational scientist first known in her independent career for her research combining ab initio quantum chemistry with molecular dynamics and kinetic Monte Carlo simulations, especially as applied to etching and growth of silicon. Later, she merged quantum mechanics, applied mathematics, and solid state physics to construct a linear scaling orbital-free density functional theory (OFDFT) that can treat unprecedented numbers of atoms quantum mechanically (recent breakthroughs in nonlocal energy functionals extend OFDFT to much of the periodic table), an embedded correlated wavefunction theory that combines quantum chemistry with periodic DFT to treat condensed matter ground and excited electronic states and strongly correlated materials (furnishing, e.g., the first ab initio view of the many-body Kondo state of condensed matter physics), and fast algorithms for ab initio multi-reference correlated electronic wavefunction methods that permit accurate thermochemical kinetics and excited states to be predicted for large molecules. She was a pioneer in quantum-based multiscale simulations of materials that eliminate macroscopic empirical constitutive laws and that led to new insights into, e.g., shock Hugoniot behavior of iron and stress-corrosion cracking of steel. Earlier, her doctoral research furnished new understanding into homogeneous and heterogeneous catalysis, while her postdoctoral work presented the condensed matter simulation community with the widely used rare event sampling method known as the Blue Moon Ensemble. Her research into how materials fail due to chemical and mechanical effects furnished proposals for how to optimally protect these materials against failure (e.g., by doping, alloying, or coating). Her current research is focused entirely on enabling discovery and design of molecules and materials for sustainable energy, including converting sunlight to electricity and fuels, providing clean electricity from solid oxide fuel cells, clean and efficient combustion of biofuels, and optimizing lightweight metal alloys for fuel-efficient vehicles and fusion reactor walls.

Albert J. Moscowitz Memorial Lectureship

The Albert J. Moscowitz Memorial Lectureship in Chemistry was established by friends and colleagues of Professor Albert J. Moscowitz (1929-1996) to honor his many contributions to molecular spectroscopy. He was known for his research on the interpretation of optical rotation and circular dichroism spectra in terms of the structures of chiral molecules. In collaboration with colleagues in the medical sciences, he developed important applications of his methods to biomedical systems. Throughout his career, Moscowitz held numerous visiting professorships at other universities, and served on the editorial boards of the leading journals in chemical physics. His work was honored by election as Foreign Member of the Danish Royal Academy of Sciences and Letters, and as a Fellow of the American Physical Society.

Past Albert J. Moscowitz lecturers include Bruce Berne, Columbia University (2000), R. Stephen Berry, University of Chicago (1998), Jean-Luc Bredas, University of Arizona (2002), Mike Duncan, University of Georgia (2010), Crim F. Fleming, University of Wisconsin (2006), C. Daniel Frisbie, University of Minnesota (1999), Mike Frisch, Gaussian (2008), Anthony Legon, University of Bristol (2013), Marsha Lester, University of Pennsylvania (2011), Frank Neese, Max-Planck Institute for Chemical Energy Conversion (2014), Stuart Rice, University of Chicago (2000), Peter Rossky, University of Chicago (2006), Giacinto Scoles, University of Princeton (2004), Benjamin Schwartz, University of California, Los Angeles (2007), Hirata So, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (2011), Walter Thiel, Max Plank Institute, Muelhiem (2002), Zhen-Gang Wang, CalTech (2014), and Georg Kresse (2016).

  • Event Details

    Location: 331 Smith Hall
    Host: Professor Laura Gagliardi
    • Professor Emily A. Carter
    • Emily Carter
    • School of Engineering and Applied Science, Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
    • Princeton University
    • Princeton