Tulane University School of Science and Engineering
Summer MAterials Research @ Tulane (SMART)
Research Experience for Undergraduates
Below we describe sample projects offered by faculty advisors under Materials for Energy. These representative projects highlight the general interests of the participating faculty, though the specifics may be subject to change.
Materials for Energy
Mechanistic Aspects of Solar Fuel (H2) Generation
Russ Schmehl, Chemistry
The use of sunlight to drive chemical reactions that result in the production of storable fuels is regarded as one of the holy grails of chemistry. The general approach involves capturing the photons with energy high enough to be productive and use the energy to drive electron transfer reactions that generate strong oxidizing and reducing agents that, with water as the target, will result in formation of oxygen and hydrogen. There are many challenges to accomplishing this overall chemistry and the overall water splitting is addressed by studying separate systems to understand water oxidation and reduction. Our efforts are focused on developing systems for photochemical reduction/oxidation of water and examining them using pulsed laser time resolved spectroscopy in the uv-vis and infrared. The laser spectroscopic methods will allow us to identify highly reactive intermediate species formed with visible light excitation and dissect the details of competitive kinetic processes that exist.
Materials for Organic and Hybrid Solar Cells
Noa Marom, Physics and Engineering Physics
The quest for clean and sustainable energy sources drives the development of solar cell technology. Organic photovoltaics (OPVs) and dye-sensitized solar cells (DSCs) are attractive for low cost, large area applications. Organic photovoltaics offer the further advantage of mechanical flexibility and transparency. However, the relatively low efficiency of organic photovoltaics and dye-sensitized solar cells, compared to inorganic devices, remains a challenge. Understanding, predicting, and controlling the structure and electronic properties of the functional nanostructured interfaces in the active region is the key to increasing the efficiency of organic photovoltaics and dye-sensitized solar cells. Noa Marom’s group seeks insight from first principles that will lead to design rules for more efficient solar cells. To this end, the Marom group conducts fully quantum mechanical simulations, employing methods such as dispersion inclusive density functional theory and many-body perturbation theory. These methods enable accurate description of the geometry of dispersively bound systems and of electronic properties, such as ionization potentials, electron affinities, fundamental gaps, and the energy level alignment at interfaces. Student participants will conduct first principles simulations of the electronic properties of materials for organic and hybrid solar cells. The students will learn to use codes and run massively parallel calculations in a high performance computing environment. In addition, students will develop programming skills in Unix, Python, and FORTRAN, learn to use mathematical software like Matlab and Mathematica, and use atomistic visualizers like Jmol and Materials Studio for data analysis.
Ultra-high Power Density Photovoltaics from 2-D Transition Metal Chalcogenides
Matthew Escarra, Physics and Engineering Physics
The vast potential for solar energy to be useful in a variety of energy generation applications has spurred research on a wide range of photovoltaic materials. Devices formed from ultrathin materials offer the potential for reduced cost, lower weight, flexible form factors, and integration into multiple formats, all with the potential to maintain reasonably high performance. Matthew Escarra’s group is developing novel PV devices formed from 2-dimensional transition metal chalcogenide materials, an early stage material set that has the potential to push the limits of ultrathin photovoltaics. The unique properties of 2-D TMCs make them especially tantalizing for use in optoelectronic applications. The Escarra group is exploring methods to produce large area 2-dimensional transition metal chalcogenides and characterizing them with technique, including electroluminescence, photoluminescence, photocurrent, photovoltage, x-ray diffraction, elemental analysis. Participants will have the opportunity to develop transition metal chalcogenide photovoltaics using chemical and physics vapor deposition; characterizing these materials; fabricating devices; and measuring the optical and electrical characteristics of these TMC devices.