Enabling meaningful student research experiences - functional materials for solar energy conversion and storage
Population growth and rapidly increasing energy consumption necessitate innovative materials for energy conversion and storage. Gains in solar electricity and battery technologies are evidenced by the availability of commercial products. However viable solar fuel platforms—where the energy in sunlight is used to form storable fuels such as hydrogen gas—have not yet been realized. Similarly, widespread use of these platforms will be accelerated when interfaced to thin, flexible organic electronics, but semiconducting polymers lack critical stability and efficiency. The need for rationally designed functional materials from earth-abundant sources motivates the scientific foci of this work. Here we present results from two ongoing projects in materials chemistry, designed to enable student participation in authentic research experiences of societal relevance. In the first project, synthesis and characterization of copper(II) carboxylates was realized; ongoing undergraduate research focuses on the solvent-dependent stability of these complexes. Ultimately, these complexes will be used to modify semiconducting nanocrystals for solar hydrogen generation. In the second project, electrochemical training modules were piloted, and preliminary electropolymerization and electrodeposition trials were achieved. An ongoing Honors Thesis explores structure-property relationships as a function of monomer, anion size, and cation size. Together, this work demonstrates ways faculty research seed funding such as the Junior Faculty Summer Research Award and the University Research Enhancement Grant can be used to enable productive, modular student research projects that can be carried out in a single 3-hour period, during one-semester credit-bearing independent research projects, and through summer projects, Honors theses, or MS theses.
Where has this project been presented before?
parts of this work have been present in departmental poster sessions
Jenkins, Judith L., "Enabling meaningful student research experiences - functional materials for solar energy conversion and storage" (2020). University Presentation Showcase Event: Faculty Submissions. 2.