My research focuses on two major challenges: the storage of solar and other forms of intermittent renewable energy, and carbon-neutral fuel and chemical production. In collaboration with the Chemical Transformations Initiative at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory I am researching electrocatalytic conversion of unused biomass to energy-dense fuels or valuable chemicals. Electrocatalysis offers a means to produce these without using fossil fuels, as well as store renewable electricity in chemical bonds. The challenge is how to convert the variety of organic molecules in bio-oil into useful products at high rates. I’ve set up a system in my first year to determine intrinsic kinetics of the electrocatalytic hydrogenation of organics. Using this, I will study how different molecular designs affect kinetics, and develop relations between molecular structure and catalytic activity. Experimental data on these relations can also better inform computational models to predict effective catalysts for a variety of applications beyond biofuels.
Advisor: Charlie Campbell – Chemistry