396659 Power and Remediation with Photovoltaics

Sunday, November 16, 2014
Galleria Exhibit Hall (Hilton Atlanta)
Ben Meekins, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX

My research interests are focused on the fundamental understanding and practical application of photovoltaics. The prospective work will focus on the synthesis of new materials and better understanding of the underlying properties that determine the effectiveness of different materials for photovoltaic and photoelectrochemical processes.. I believe that the projects described below are feasible and will provide new insights in their respective fields.

            Remediation of carbon dioxide is a problem without a clear practical solution. Sequestration is a temporary answer and may not be providing even the minimal results originally predicted. Electrochemical reduction of carbon dioxide is possible but requires such a significant energy input that it is not practical at this point. Using “free” energy from sunlight to reduce carbon dioxide with a photoelectrochemical system is an appealing solution. P-type semiconductors are able to directly reduce molecules in solution. Accordingly, although the direct reduction of CO2 requires approximately 1.9V of input, this could be reduced with co-catalysts and the use of strategic electrolytes (acetonitrile, ionic liquids).

            Oxynitride photocatalysts are known in the literature. While their synthesis is highly energy and time intensive, they show promise in both photovoltaic and water splitting applications. Synthesizing oxynitride photocatalysts at lower temperatures and shorter times would enhance the ability to seek out new oxynitride photocatalysts. The use of a local exothermic reaction will meet these goals. The use of a localized exothermic reaction will generate the heat needed to synthesize the oxynitride materials. This procedure may also allow for high-throughput synthesis techniques that will speed the search for new and better materials even more.

            Hybrid organic-inorganic perovskite materials have recently garnered a great deal of interest due to their low cost and high efficiency in photovoltaic applications. All of the focus, however, has been on Pb-halide based materials. Although cheap, using lead in the material could be problematic. This work would focus on finding other perovskite-type photovoltaic materials by substituting the metal and halide. Experiments would include full physical and spectroscopic (time-resolved ultrafast) characterization of the material as well as application testing for photovoltaic, water splitting, and remediation purposes.

            These projects will allow for collaboration in a number of fields, including materials synthesis techniques, energy storage methods (batteries, flow cells, etc.), and reaction kinetic measurements (steady-state and transient).

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