Our research focuses on developing new ways to store solar energy as chemical potential in transportable fuels. Both transportation and production of electricity for the gird are major sources of carbon emissions. If successful our research will provide a method to capture and store solar energy in a fuel, reducing carbon emissions. We integrate computational and experimental techniques into developing new catalytic systems for energy storage. We also are investigating using thiophenes for fluorescent mercury sensing.
The principal goal of my research program is to discover innovative photocatalysts for energy storage and organic transformations that will propel society away from reliance on petroleum-based energy and to develop photochemical reactions that will decrease production of toxic waste. To implement photochemistry to sustainably carry out chemical reactions, we integrate computational chemistry with experimental methods. We have previously published a theoretical investigation into a nickel-based water-reduction catalyst in which we identified a key hydride intermediate. Now we are continuing hydrogen production work on two fronts. First, we have calculated the reaction pathways for novel nickel-based water reduction catalysts. We subsequently synthesized these catalysts. Hydrogen production reactivity will be correlated to computationally calculated pKa’s and reduction potentials. This illustrates the intertwined approach of both computational and experimental chemistry employed in our lab. Second, we are exploring the use of nanoparticle sensitizers for Hydrogen production, specifically C based quantum dots. We are also investigating methods to eliminate sacrificial electron donors in solar-fuel reactions by coupling photochemical oxidation and reduction reactions. Investigation into photochemical oxidation reactions sparked our interest into how photochemistry can be used to eliminate toxic waste produced in oxidation reactions.
Students will gain a foundation in organic synthiesis and ligand design, inorganic/materials chemistry as well as training in multidiciplanary research. This will be achieved through the design, synthesis and characterization of new photo-active compounds. These project will work to further integrate theoretical computational methods such as time-dependent density functional theory (TD-DFT) into materials research.