Artificial Photosynthesis is a promising mechanism through which clean, renewable energy can be generated. Photosynthesis allows a plant to synthesize glucose to use as fuel. Instead of generating glucose as a final product, artificial photosynthesis generates hydrogen. The mechanism involves a chromophore, a semiconductor, and an electrocatalyst (Fig. 1). When sunlight hits a chromophore, an electron becomes excited. This electron is then transferred to a semiconductor, which then transfers the electron to an electrocatalyst. The electrocatalyst reduces the protons naturally found in water to generate hydrogen gas. Over the summer, I will be researching a cobalt complex that will act as an electrocatalyst. Cobalt is earth abundant and has low cost, which will ultimately lower the cost of this mechanism. The cobalt complex itself is inspired by a similar iron complex previously synthesized in my research lab. Specifically, I will be running organic syntheses in order to create the ligand so that I may later complex it with cobalt. This will then yield the electrocatalyst. Once synthesized, I will then analyze it using electrochemical experiments to observe its stability and efficiency. Hydrogen can be introduced into a fuel cell to generate energy, releasing water vapor as waste. Making this process cost effective and efficient may eventually turn it into a promising alternative energy source.
And here it is. The moment we have all been traveling towards: the end of summer research! I am actually rather sad that the summer is pretty much over already. It has been a festive summer with some great results!
As I enter my final week of research, I am almost rushing to tie up a couple of projects so that they do not dangle the two weeks before I come back to school.
In reflection of all that has happened this summer, I’ve realized that the past 10 weeks have gone by incredibly quickly. Overall, I was able to test samples from four different gels and find a plethora of peptides and subsequent proteins. In addition, I learned a lot about the other projects we are doing in the lab, like our kinetic method projects for finding proton affinity of unnatural amino acids. We also flowing afterglow mass spectrometer up and running and taking data, something that has not been attained in our lab for several years. There was a lot of progress in both my project and the others in our lab, despite the power outage and lost weeks.
This last week was eventful in that a few things were discovered about my project. One ligand variation yielded a proton NMR very similar to a starting material, and this led Dr. McNamara and I to conclude the ligand never synthesized. Because of this, I complexed this particular starting material with iron to see if I indeed had a failed synthesis. In addition to this, the primary ligand variation I ran electrochemistry tests on acted differently in a glove bag that was designed to create an air-free environment. I am not sure yet what this means for the reactivity, but the best part of this experiment was the complex did not decompose after almost an hour and a half! Hopefully this signals good things for the research during the year.