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Pratt Fellowship: Unraveling Electrochemical Growth of Nanostructures Using First-Principles Simulations (Expected)

Durham, North Carolina

Description: Although nanostructures play a significant role in several applications, the mechanisms driving their growth remain largely unknown. As a Pratt Fellow, I will be using first-principles, quantum-mechanical simulations to study the mechanisms driving the growth of shape-controlled Au nanostructures in Br-containing environments. To extend this model further, I will be studying how the presence and absence of electrochemical potentials affects such mechanisms. By studying this specific example, I will be able to generate an in-depth atomistic validation of the driving forces that determine nanostructure shapes and sizes.

Relation to GC Focus: Understanding the mechanisms behind nanostructure growth will allow me to understand and develop a rational pathway to designing optimal nanostructure manufacturing approaches. Nanostructures are applied to a variety of applications due to their unique material properties, and are now a hot topic in the field of renewable energy technologies. Specifically, nanostructures are currently being studied in the context of third-generation photovoltaics, fuel cells, and lithium-based batteries. Understanding how to manufacture these structures and how these structures behave in a variety of environments will open a new realm of possibilities for renewable energy systems, which can ultimately satisfy the growing demand for power in a clean and sustainable manner. I am looking forward to further studying the intersection of electrochemistry, materials science, and energy generation in an effort to improve urban energy infrastructure.

Supervisor: Dr. Volker W. Blum

Dates: January 2021 to May 2022

Total Hours: 240 hours (3 semesters)

Bass Connections: Providing Clean Fuel for the Developing World

Durham, North Carolina

Description: As the demand for energy continues to rise, finding efficient and affordable methods to generate and store energy has been a global challenge. In impoverished regions, many people lack access to a reliable energy source for cooking and heating and must resort to burning solid fueIs, as this method is the only option that is mostly affordable and effective. This poses a significant problem, as the burning of these fuels increases air pollution and causes numerous health problems. To combat this, many of these regions can use solar power, but they lack a storage device, such as a battery. To address this challenge, I will be working with a team of four other students to design an alkaline water electrolyzer and hydrogen storage system that can provide fuel for cooking and heating at a lower cost than electricity from an electrochemical battery. Furthermore, I will be working with the team to conduct a literature review on various studies and programs that have already introduced new cookstove technology.

Relation to GC Focus: This project is directly related to my GCS focus, as I will be working with a team to develop an electrolyzer and hydrogen storage system in an effort to provide clean and reliable fuel to regions that lack the necessary infrastructure needed for stable and accessible power. I look forward to improving the infrastructure in these regions through the introduction of these affordable and culturally-sensitive devices.

Supervisor: Dr. Benjamin J. Wiley

Start Date: January 2021

End Date: May 2021

Total Hours: 80 hours

HybriD3 Database Project with Ab Initio Materials Simulations (AIMS) Research Group

Lead Contributor

Durham, North Carolina

Description: Hybrid organic-inorganic perovskites are a leading field of research now, as these materials have the potential to be used in a variety of applications. I have been working with the Ab Initio Materials Simulations (AIMS) Research Group as well as a team of undergraduate students, graduate students, postdocs, and professors from other universities to develop a hybrid perovskite database, HybriD3, that provides comprehensive profiles of over hundreds of hybrid materials. As Lead Contributor, I follow leading researchers, synthesize and curate information from their publications, and publish material profiles in the database for the public’s reference.

Relation to GC Focus: Hybrid perovskites are a leading contender in emerging solar technologies, as perovskites are shown to exhibit higher efficiencies. Though the hybrid materials are still being tuned in order to minimize toxicity and maximize their optoelectronic capabilities, many emerging energy technologies are already starting to employ these materials, and studying hybrid perovskite material properties has allowed people to accelerate their projects. Within a few years, hybrid materials will be the future of renewable energy — that is, in the realm of solar photovoltaics — and will, therefore, play an increasingly important role in the energy infrastructure worldwide by improving our energy systems now to be both more efficient and more environmentally friendly.

Supervisor: Dr. Volker W. Blum

Dates: April 2020 to present

Total Hours: 10 hours per week