The global population is expected to reach 9.6 billion people by 2050. Assuming economic growth continues, this will lead to a 14-20 TW increase in demand for energy beyond what is currently produced. Development of inexpensive and efficient light-harvesting materials is vital for reaching future renewable energy demands and reducing our carbon footprint. With 120,000 TW of sunlight striking the earth’s surface, solar energy is the most abundant clean energy source available and has the potential to help achieve global energy needs. My research explores the direct conversion of solar energy into renewable fuels, such as hydrogen. I am using inorganic synthetic techniques to construct a type II nanorod-catalyst composite capable of facilitating the reduction of water to hydrogen fuel. Electrons in type II nanorods become excited in the presence of sunlight and migrate to the energetically more favorable ends of the rod. I intend to develop techniques for selectively attaching catalysts to the surfaces of the nanorod ends and use the excited electrons to catalytically reduce protons to hydrogen fuel. Ultimately, these type II nanorods can be used to construct more photoelectrochemical devices.
Advisor: Brandi M. Cossairt, Chemistry