Kirk S. Schanze

Robert A. Welch Distinguished University Chair in Chemistry
The University of Texas at San Antonio


After 30 years at the University of Florida, Kirk Schanze brought his photochemistry research to Texas and UTSA last year, thanks in part to an endowed Welch Foundation chair. He continues to expand his research into how light interacts with molecular systems and materials with potential applications in solar power, light emitting diodes, transistors and diodes.

His work is primarily focused on understanding the photochemical and photophysical processes that are stimulated when molecular systems absorb light. His team studies conjugated polymers, a class of functional, light-emitting and -absorbing materials with potentially useful properties, to explore the phenomenon of luminescence, or light emission.

Dr. Schanze’s team leverages this fundamental work to develop polymer LEDs, or novel light-emitting devices, and fluorescent sensors, some of which are in use by aerodynamics engineering in wind-tunnel testing, and by chemists and biochemists for sensing analytes of interest.

In solar fuel research, the professor is interested in splitting water to produce hydrogen and oxygen, or potentially combining water and carbon dioxide, to create methane, the primary component in natural gas.

“With these ‘uphill’ reactions – so-called because they move in the opposite direction of typical chemical reactions – we hope to take low-cost commodities and convert them into high-value fuels while at the same time addressing the carbon dioxide emissions contributing to climate change,” he says.