Shyama Shah is currently an undergraduate student studying Biomedical Engineering. She is an intern at the Rutgers Energy Institute for the summer of 2016, working with Professor Manish Chhowalla.
1: Please briefly describe your research. My research this summer was about making sources of clean energy, via the hydrogen evolution reaction (HER), cheaper. The motivation for studying HER is to find alternate methods of energy. The energy used today, mainly petroleum has brought about a great industrial revolution, but unfortunately an even greater carbon emission that is responsible for climate change. A solution to petroleum’s pollution is hydrogen.Hydrogen fuel cells are becoming promising, as efficient methods for hydrogen evolution and storage are being researched. The basic principle of HER is to separate water into its two elements, hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen gas evolved from the reaction can be captured and used as fuel. The main scientific challenge associated with splitting of water is that it is a stable, naturally occurring molecule so energy is required to split it. A way to reduce the reaction voltage is to use catalysts such as platinum. Platinum is a conducting material and an excellent catalyst for HER, but is very expensive. My research this summer was using cheap, naturally occurring, semiconducting catalysts called transition metal dichalcogenides (TMD) to catalyze HER as efficient as platinum.
2: How did you come to be involved in this research? I was introduced to Manish Chhowalla from the engineering orientation lecture first semester freshman year. This research was a great opportunity from Manish Chhowalla and his group. I was fortunate to have been learning about HER under post doc. Jieun Yang throughout my freshman year at Rutgers and the Rutgers Energy Institute internship followed over the summer.
3: Where do you see your research fitting into our energy future? Testing novel methods for hydrogen evolution with different TMD materials will provide new insight into generation of hydrogen using catalysis and open up avenues for developing technologies that have the potential for reducing our carbon footprint and improving the environment in the future.