Nicole Neville, 2018, Chemical and Biological Engineering

Hematite is an iron oxide material that is being investigated as a photoelectrocatalyst (material to increase reaction rate) in water splitting under light. Water splitting is important because it produces hydrogen gas, which can be used in some contexts as an alternative to fossil fuels. The goal of this project was to investigate the basic properties of hematite and lay the foundation for further research. This summer, I helped design a system to investigate in-situ water splitting under solar simulated light via FTIR, a common spectroscopy instrument. Ordinarily one cannot shine light on a sample or saturate it with water; however, in our lab’s design we were able to accomplish both. I also ran various samples of hematite under FTIR and Raman spectroscopy. Through this internship, I learned how to complete a design process from beginning to end, as well as how to run spectroscopy samples and analyze/ interpret the resultant data. The research gave me a much better idea of how to apply my knowledge from classes to real problems in engineering and also gave me insight into graduate school labwork.