Edward Zhang ’19, Chemistry

Certificate(s): Music Performance

To make hydrogen gas a viable fuel and means of energy storage, we must tackle one of the biggest inefficiencies in water electrolysis (using electricity to split water into oxygen and hydrogen gas) — the oxygen evolution reaction (OER). Ideally, we would like a highly active and inexpensive catalyst that is stable in concentrated acid. To this end, I designed and conducted experiments to see how well zirconium-iridium mixed oxides can act as electrocatalysts for OER. This involved synthesizing the catalyst using ionbeam sputtering, testing the catalyst in an electrochemical cell, and probing physical properties using various surface-science techniques, such as X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, scanning electron microscopy and energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy. The mixed-oxide material acted as an electrocatalyst, and I found that these catalysts had excellent activity and improved stability compared to iridium oxide. As I intend to apply to graduate school, this experience offered me insights into my life ahead as a researcher.