Electrocatalyst Evaluation for the Oxygen Reduction Reactions

Hi! I’m William Lake, and I’m a rising senior here at W&M.  I’m a double major in Chemistry and math, and I’ll be researching inorganic catalysts this summer in Professor McNamara’s physical-inorganic chemistry lab.   Specifically, I am looking for electrocatalysts for the Oxygen Reduction Reactions (ORR).

One solution for easily accessible storage of solar energy is hydrogen fuel cells. However, widespread implementation of these cells requires production of efficient electrocatalysts for oxygen reduction.  Historically, catalysts for the ORR are efficient, but based on noble metals like platinum or palladium.  These metals are obviously very expensive which limits possible commercial applications.

This research synthesizes and tests inexpensive catalysts using earth abundant metals (like iron or cobalt) for activity. We use previously tested methodology for determining electrical activity and analysis of results, including recent Foot-of-the-Wave analysis (FOWA) to determine turnover frequencies for the selected molecules. This research will provide valuable information regarding the viability of various catalysts in oxygen reduction, and inform future discovery and refinement of electrocatalysts designed for this process.

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