BRIGE awards maintain global competitiveness by increasing the diversity of ENG researchers, who are initiating research programs early in their careers. BRIGE awards further the broaden participation of engineering researchers by increasing the number of engineering graduates, by improving the representation of women and minorities in engineering, and by understanding how to improve recruitment and retention of engineering students.
Human beings consume the energy equivalent of 200 million barrels of oil per day. Each day, the sun deposits on the earth an energy equivalent of 1.7 trillion barrels. Since the sun provides nearly 10,000 times more energy than humans consume, this necessitates a need to find a cost-effective way to harness it. Despite decades of research in solar utilization, we are still far from a cost-effective solution that can provide the ~10 TW of clean power that we will soon need.
This BRIGE award will investigate engineering layered semiconductors, such as MoS2 and WS2, at the nanoscale level to tune their properties for the direct conversion of solar photons to H2 and O2 by photoelectrochemical (PEC) water-splitting. The PI aims to transform solar energy research by using nanostructure to control critical PEC properties-namely, the semiconductor bandgap, band edge alignment with H2 and O2 redox potentials, charge transport within the semiconductor, durability, and surface kinetics for the hydrogen evolution reaction (HER). Previously, the PI has been able to synthesize nanoparticulate MoS2 and that, unlike the case of bulk MoS2, these particles exhibit excellent electrocatalytic properties for the HER due to their nanostructure. The research activities are fundamental in nature and aim to understand the physico-chemical phenomena occurring on and within these nanostructured dichalcogenide semiconductors in order to exploit this knowledge for the development of new, nanoscale semiconductors. The PI's ultimate goal is to develop efficient solar-to-fuels devices.
The PI will broadly impact three general areas: societal, scientific, and educational. The grand energy challenge is to improve utilization of solar energy, which will have global and societal impacts. From a scientific perspective, the knowledge gained regarding the chemical, catalytic, optical, and electronic phenomena within these nanoscale dichalcogenide semiconductors will contribute broadly to a number of different scientific fields. Regarding education, the PI will conduct a number of outreach activities involving K-12, undergraduate, and graduate students. Additionally, the PI, native of Puerto Rico, has established outreach opportunities to Puerto Rican students in two locations: (1) the University of Puerto Rico (UPR), where the PI intends to recruit undergraduates to apply to the Ph.D. program at Stanford University, and (2) at the high school alma mater of the PI, Saint John's School, where he will interact with K-12 students and inspire them to pursue science and engineering disciplines. Closer to Stanford University, the PI also plans to be a role model for local juvenile wards of the court, most of whom are underrepresented minorities. The PI will also participate in Stanford University School of Engineering programs to attract incoming first year undergraduates into science and engineering, with directed attention to women and underrepresented minorities.
This BRIGE grant will broaden the participation of and increase opportunities for all engineers including those from groups underrepresented in the engineering disciplines. This BRIGE grant will also encourage the PI to become actively and competitively engaged in research as an independent investigator.