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Scott Chapp, Summer Research

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Summer Research, Scott Chapp

Scott is working on a project to develop catalysts for artificial photosynthesis.  In plants, photosynthesis converts solar photons into useful fuels; working with Dr. Adam Hill and two other students, Scott is trying to mimic the process with bimetallic compounds.  By grafting cobalt and zirconium onto a silica surface, the surface will provide stability for the metals and create an environment for two metals to form a polar bond.  When two metals bond they will exhibit properties that neither metal atom would independently. This is important because these metals are far less expensive than the precious metals commonly used in catalysis now, so if these could make solar energy a lot cheaper.  Specifically, Scott and his partners have the goal of examining whether this could reduce carbon dioxide, paving the way for energy-dense fuels. Zirconium and cobalt act as a tag team: zirconium binds oxygen, while cobalt attacks the carbon, turning carbon dioxide into carbon monoxide.

The other step is trying to identify the structure and bonds between zirconium and cobalt.  Two students are synthesizing the compound, while another is working with Dr. Catherine Jahncke in the Physics Department, using a laser to do Raman spectroscopy. This technique works by scattering laser light off the material we are making.  Raman spectroscopy reveals the vibrations of the material, identifying structures and bonds that are in the compound.  The work is to find absorbance peaks for the light, and find out where the compound absorbs light, which will ultimately explain the stability of the compound. Much of the work is done in an air free glove box under a nitrogen atmosphere; this protects the synthetic intermediates from contaminants, particularly water molecules.

This work taps into Scott’s longstanding interest alternative fuel sources to fossil fuel, “My brothers and I used to try to describe what we could do to replace fossil fuel. What would work?”   Scott approached Dr. Hill about this, and their shared interests launched the summer project.

~ by pdoty on October 16, 2014.

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