The Solar Army Across the World

The Solar Army has many branches- SHArK, SEAL, HARPOON, Juice from Juice, and the Westside Science Club. This map shows all the sites around the world with SHArK and SEAL research kits as of Feb 2016. Our solar energy research truly is a global effort! To get involved, check out the pages for each project and see which one is right for you. Follow us on twitter @thesolararmy to see what we’re up to and keep in touch!

CCI Solar Annual Meeting

There were 50 high school SEAL students at the CCI Solar Annual Meeting on Feb 6, 2016 from 7 different SoCal high schools. Each school team presented a poster with their work so far this year. In addition to learning from each other’s work, the students got to interact with the Center’s scientists and check out the latest research at the poster session. There were also demonstrations of the SEAL, SHArK 3.0 and HARPOON kits in addition to a station for making Juice from Juice DSSCs. It was great way to share results and new ideas, hopefully leading to some fruitful projects!

Juice from Juice at the CSTA Conference

The Juice from Juice workshop was a hit at the 2015 California Science Teacher’s Association Conference in Sacramento. On Oct 3, 2015, almost 60 teachers crowded into a room intended for 40 so they could learn about our fun dye-sensitized solar cell activity and bring solar energy education into their classrooms. Caltech grad students Noah and Annelise gave a wonderful presentation and the teachers made some very successful DSSCs. We hope to see Juice from Juice in classrooms all over CA now!

SEAL Kickoff 2015

Students, teachers and mentors from the 14 Southern California SEAL Teams gathered at Caltech on Sept 19, 2015 to kickoff the next year of SEAL research. Several past and current mentors presented on the motivation and background science for the SEAL project to inspire the students for the upcoming year. There was also a demo of the SEAL kit, the new HARPOON kit, and of the interactive educational iPad app SKIES. We’re looking forward to great collaboration over the whole school-year and hopefully some wonderful results! Instructions for SKIES download available here.

Congratulations Summer SEAL Students

From June 22-July 31, 8 high school students from Los Angeles and Orange Counties conducted research using the SEAL and HARPOON kits at Caltech. Under the direction of recent Caltech graduate, Jackie Maslyn (now Chemical Engineering grad student at UC Berkeley), the students worked on 3 separate projects related to finding viable materials for solar watersplitting. You can check out the students’ final reports on their research here.

WAHS SEAL team wins 2nd place at YPI Science Fair

On Saturday June 6, Wallis Annenberg HS from Los Angeles competed in the YPI Science Fair at Cal State Northridge. The school’s SEAL team- Kevin Lorenzo, Anthony Paramo, Ignacio Mendoza, Alex Castillo and Alfonso Alvarado- took the overall 2nd place prize for their work on the SEAL project this past year. Congratulations to the team for all their success during their first year with the SEAL project!


On Saturday May 16, over 150 high school and college students and their teachers participated in the 6th annual SEAL Con event at Caltech. There were 22 student talks and posters, all showcasing the wonderful research these schools have done throughout the year. After lunch and the poster session, students got to go on a tour of the chemistry labs on campus. General Harry Gray was in attendance as well commending his troops on a job well done. Everyone enjoyed their certificates and T-shirts honoring them for their work on the search for new metal oxide catalysts for water-splitting.

Earth Day Fair with LA Dept of Sanitation

Volunteers from Caltech came out to spread the knowledge of solar energy to attendees of the LA Department of Sanitation’s Earth Day Fair. In addition to potting their own plants, learning about recycling and protecting the environment, families at the fair got to make their own dye-sensitized solar cells at the CCI Solar booth.  They also got to check out some photovoltaics and a solar fuel cell in action too! It was a great, green day for everyone.

UDEM visits CCI Solar from Monterrey, Mexico

Twenty-two high school students from Prepa Universidad de Monterrey visited Caltech on April 17 as part of their week long trip to LA and San Diego. The students were learning about the sciences as they travelled to a couple of universities and various museums, and even had a lesson on physics at Six Flags amusement park. While at Caltech, the students got to tour the campus and labs, listen to talks from CCI and JCAP researchers, and try their hand at making some solar cells. They also got a nice visit from General Harry Gray!

Expanding Your Horizons: Chicago

Members of the Galli group volunteered at the EYH conference in Chicago on March 28, 2015. They hosted a workshop on solar energy with the “Juice from Juice” activity. This was one of several workshops that the girls attending the conference would participate in throughout the day to encourage or develop their interest in STEM. EYH is an organization dedicated to inspiring young girls to study science and we’re so happy that CCI Solar could be a part of it!

San Diego Science Festival 2015

CCI Solar hosted a booth at the San Diego Science Festival Expo this year on March 21. The festival had over 20,000 visitors, many of whom stopped by our booth to make dye-sensitized solar cells with blackberry juice or to learn how fuel cells and solar panels work. It was a very sunny day- perfect for sharing knowledge about solar energy with the public.

Jennifer McCleary: Finalist in Intel Science Talent Search

Solar Army member Jennifer McCleary from Beckman High School in Irvine, CA became a finalist in the Intel Science Talent Search, the nation’s most prestigious pre-college science competition. She participates with her SEAL spin-off project on correlating complex metal oxides’ bandgaps with their photoelectrochemical performance and is mentored by Gray group member Astrid M. Mueller. Only 40 finalists were selected from more than 1,800 entrants. Jennifer will present her work to the public in Washington, DC in March and compete for top awards.

HARPOON a Success at MSOE

HARPOON completed it’s most rigorous test yet- being used as a lab in Gen. Chem. at the Milwaukee School of Engineering. Evaluation results show it was a great success encouraging students to continue science studies and prompting 70% of students to seek out more research opportunities in the future. HARPOON kits will soon be available for purchase. Contact us for more info!

Solar Energy at MIT-SPLASH

On November 22, 2014, members of the Cummins and Nocera groups at MIT and Harvard respectively participated in the MIT-SPLASH program for high school students in the Boston area. They did the Juice from Juice activity, making DSSCs with blackberry juice, and played with toy fuel cell cars. Fun was had all-around!

Welcome to the Solar Army website! We are the outreach branch of the NSF Center for Chemical Innovation in Solar Fuels (CCI Solar) centered at the California Institute of Technology.

Enough sunlight falls on the earth in one hour to power all the energy needs of our planet for a year.  If we can capture the energy in sunlight and use it to generate a chemical fuel, we will no longer need to burn fossil fuels, will no longer add to the green house gases in the atmosphere, will no longer need to purchase oil from other countries, and will have a sustainable fuel that is renewed every day from the sun.

The Solar Army wants to capture the energy in sunlight and use it to split water and yield a chemical fuel, hydrogen. We will need two great catalysts to do this: one to oxidize water to oxygen; the other to reduce protons to hydrogen. We have several outreach projects where high school and undergraduate students can join in on the search for these catalysts. Check out the SHArK, SEAL and HARPOON pages to learn more about how to get involved in the search for non-toxic, efficient, cheap, earth-abundant materials that will change the way the world gets its power!

The Solar Army also has a project called Juice from Juice where students and teachers can learn about solar energy in the context of making dye-sensitized solar cells with blackberry juice. Through assembly and testing of DSSCs and related activities in chemistry, physics or biology modules, students  in grades 3-12 can learn the fundamentals of solar energy. Check out the Juice from Juice page to learn more about the activities, get lesson plan downloads, kit purchasing information or to sign up for one of our professional development workshops.


Check out our calendar for upcoming events across the nation!


Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
CCI Solar Annual Meeting 9:30 pm
CCI Solar Annual Meeting @ Newport Beach Marriot
Feb 6 @ 9:30 pm – 2:30 am
The poster session and outreach demo fair of the 2016 CCI Solar Fuels Annual Meeting will be on Saturday afternoon from 2:30-6:00pm. Immediately following will be a formal dinner with all of the CCI Solar researchers[...]