Olivia Watson, 2015, Chemistry

As a member of the photoelectrocatalysis (PEC) team in the Koel research lab, I helped with the characterization of various plasma-treated metal surfaces in the pursuit to identify a catalytic surface that would improve the efficiency of the water splitting reaction. In the same way that leaves perform photosynthesis to convert solar energy into glucose, a successful catalyst would facilitate the conversion of solar energy to chemical energy via the splitting of water molecules into hydrogen (usable for fuel). I found this research to be an exciting vantage point in the field of alternative energy because it could allow for more universal access to fossil fuel substitutes. It was also an invaluable opportunity for me to better understand the tools used to investigate surface science, including electrochemical cells, Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM), Raman spectroscopy, and X-ray Photoelectron Spectroscopy (XPS). I look forward to using all my new skills for my Chemistry thesis!