Novel compositionally complex nanoscale materials with targeted optical and chemical properties
Discovery and implementation of renewable sources of energy is one of the most urgent and challenging problems of our time. Practical methods to store solar energy in the form of fuels could revolutionize the renewable energy landscape. This work, funded by a 2013 Beckman Young Investigator Award, aims to investigate new materials with suitable properties for solar fuel generation. We have developed a method to synthesize alloyed nanocrystals containing zinc, gallium, oxygen, and nitrogen, which exhibit both the visible light absorption needed for solar energy harvesting and photoelectrochemical water-oxidation activity necessary for solar fuel generation. However, the origins of the visible absorption and photoelectrochemical activity are not understood. This project combines chemical synthesis, time-resolved spectroscopy, and electron microscopy to address this gap in knowledge. If we understand why this particular material exhibits properties suitable for solar fuel generation, we may reveal fundamental principles of how nanoscale alloying can be used to design other semiconductors with targeted optical and chemical properties.
Arnold O. Beckman exemplifies the meaning of the word humanitarian. Combined with his unwavering enthusiasm for life, his keen sense of humor and his strong moral and ethical principles, he is a national icon.