Next Step: Titanium Dioxide

During my last week of research, I started a new phase of my project. After completing the study of the electron transfer dynamics of the dye Rhodamine 560 on glass, I moved on to studying the behavior of this dye on titanium dioxide. While we can learn a lot from the studies of R560 on glass especially when we compare it to other rhodamine dyes on glass, that entire phase of experimentation was just a control for comparison with the results on titanium dioxide. In actual dye-sensitized solar cells, the application of this research, titanium dioxide or some other semiconductor is necessary for the generation of electricity.

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Research Check-In Part 2

The current goal for my project is to synthesize a functional catalyst for the hydrogen oxidation reaction (HOR) of significant yield. Several mechanistic reaction pathways have been proposed, including methods used by lab members in past years, as well as methods from published literature. For each attempt to correctly synthesize the ligand (where the “ligand’ is a compound that will later be attached to a metal to make up the catalyst), I must perform the reaction, and then test it to see whether or not the reaction worked and whether or not I have truly synthetized what I’m looking for. The difficulty stems not from the reaction itself, but from the post-reaction purification step, which involves lengthy separation of the compound from any impurities.  From the set-up of the initial reaction, to testing the purity of the molecule post-separation, the entire process of synthesizing a ligand can take from a few days to a week. With every attempt, there always variables that can be tweaked to improve the conditions of the procedure and thus increase yield of the product.

Updated Abstract and Research Check-In Part 1

Research began on May 30th. I learned on Day 1 from my professor that I would no longer be researching organometallic-catalyzed oxygen reduction, which I had initially planned on researching this summer, and would now be transferred to a new, independent project: catalyzing the hydrogen oxidation reaction (HOR), a necessary step for green catalytic hydrogenation of organic molecules. The goal is to synthesize and identify a catalyst that can selectively hydrogenate molecules, producing as little waste as possible. For the first few weeks of research, I electrochemically tested various catalysts that the lab had synthesized over the past 5 years using an instrument named a cyclic voltammogram. Upon conclusion that none of the catalysts were active for HOR– unfortunate yet unsurprising, since none of the catalysts were designed for that purpose – my professor assigned me the task of synthesizing a new catalyst with HOR in mind. I now turn to journals of past lab members to learn the procedure for synthesizing the ligands necessary for these organometallic catalysts, with a new twist: a different state of the metal, which should help with the HOR.