Brian Chang, 2016, Chemistry

The goal of my PEI summer internship was to develop a better catalyst for solar-powered water splitting, mainly to serve as a hydrogen fuel source. Hydrogen can be used as a zero-emission energy source. However, current methods of generating sufficient quantities of hydrogen are problematic in that they are either energy-intensive or create large quantities of greenhouse gases. Photocatalytic water splitting is a promising method of generating hydrogen, and should theoretically only require a source of sunlight and water and an appropriate catalyst. I sought to test an alloy of zinc oxide and manganese oxide for use as a photocatalyst. This alloy has been theorized to be highly efficient but has not yet been successfully synthesized. Over the summer I ran experiments where I attempted to first synthesize very small zinc oxide nano-particles, then attempted to combine them with manganese oxide, then characterized the resulting product in terms of particle size and geometry using various materials science techniques. This internship taught me about independently carrying out a research project, and further confirmed my interest in scientific research as a career path.