Compositionally Complex Nanoscale Materials for Solar Fuel Generation and Integration of Solar Energy Research into Physical Chemi
Gallium-Zinc oxy(nitrides) are a group of materials interesting to researchers for their ability to absorb sunlight in a novel way and transfer that energy into the work of splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen. Such compounds may one day be key to producing clean, renewable fuels. Dukovic is interested in understanding precisely how these materials work, and perhaps, boosting their efficiencies by developing them into nanocrystalline forms – that is, very tiny crystals. She hopes to do so because matter behaves differently – sometimes much more efficiently—at the nano, or very small, scale. The goal of her educational project is to develop 10 instructional modules integrating solar energy research into UC Boulder’s undergraduate physical chemistry course on quantum mechanics and spectroscopy. Quantum mechanics deals with the behavior of subatomic particles such as photons and electrons—their interactions are central to the creation of electricity from sunlight. Spectroscopy is the study of the interaction between matter and radiated energy such as light. By coupling these fields of study with solar energy research, Dukovic hopes to attract students interested in solving real-world problems.