(6cz) Understanding and Controlling Multielectron Transfer Electrochemistry Toward Sustainable Energy Technologies | AIChE

(6cz) Understanding and Controlling Multielectron Transfer Electrochemistry Toward Sustainable Energy Technologies


Nielander, A. - Presenter, Stanford University
AIChE Meet the Faculty Poster Session

Title: Controlling Multielectron Transfer Electrochemistry for Sustainable Energy Technologies

Research Interests:

The sustainable generation of the fuels and chemicals that power our daily lives is one of the key challenges facing the chemical sciences today. The large-scale generation of chemical fuels (such as hydrogen, methanol, and ammonia) from renewable electricity sources (e.g. wind, solar) is a tantalizing prospect, but requires the careful coupling of electrical energy and chemical reaction.

Electrical energy can be a powerful tool for catalysis. A change in reaction driving force that would require the application of hundreds of atmospheres of pressure can be achieved with less than a volt of applied potential. However, the ability to control the spontaneity of a reaction does not always come with concomitant control over the selectivity of the electron transfer. Instead, a multitude of products as well as corrosion processes are often observed. My research interests center around understanding and promoting efficient, selective electron transfer, particularly with respect to the multielectron charge transfers often necessary to synthesize chemical fuels. Efficiency and selectivity will be derived from both improved catalyst design and improved electrolyte engineering, with a strong focus on understanding the structure/function relationship at catalyst surfaces. The relationship of catalyst surface structure to its activity and selectivity will be elucidated by careful in situ study of catalyst surface structure and electrochemical measurements, and the knowledge we gain will be used to rationally develop next-generation catalysts. These new electrocatalysts will then be integrated into device structures to evaluate them under practical conditions. The knowledge gained from each of these thrusts: catalyst surface chemistry study, catalyst design, and device integration, will inform the others to help us achieve our ultimate goal of sustainably generating fuels.

Teaching Interests:

My training has prepared me to ably serve a Chemical Engineering department in the instruction of undergraduate and graduate students both in the laboratory and in the classroom. My teaching experience includes the mentorship of multiple graduate and undergraduate students in the laboratory. Additionally, I have acted as the head instructor for advanced graduate courses in photoelectrochemistry during my PhD, and have served in teaching assistant roles.

I would be comfortable teaching a range of undergraduate-level chemical engineering and chemistry courses, including kinetics, thermodynamics, and other physical/analytical courses. In the future, I hope to have the opportunity to develop (1) a course directed toward graduate students and senior undergraduates aimed at understanding electrochemistry and its practical application to electrocatalysis of energy-rich molecules, as well as (2) a course designed around semiconductor electrochemistry, photoelectrochemistry, and applications to emerging renewable energy technologies.

Research Experience:

Postdoctoral Scholar 2016-Present

Department of Chemical Engineering, Stanford University

Advisor: Thomas F. Jaramillo

Project: Synthesis and Characterization of N2 Reduction Electrocatalysts

  • Investigated the dependence of electrocatalytic NH3 production rate on electrolyte composition and catalyst identity
  • Developed and applied analytical techniques and best practices for identifying electrochemically generated NH3 in non-aqueous electrolytes

Graduate Research Assistant 2010-2016

Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, California Institute of Technology

Advisor: Nathan S. Lewis

Ph.D. Thesis: Chemical and Photoelectrochemical Behavior of Graphene-Covered Silicon Photoanodes

  • Investigated the chemical and photoelectrochemical stability of Si and GaAs photoelectrodes covered by atomically thin graphene layers in aqueous electrolytes
  • Explored the effect of graphene interfacial layers on the electronic properties of silicon/electrolyte junctions related to solar cell device performance
  • Developed methods and classification scheme for the characterization of the efficiency of photoelectrochemical and photovoltaic solar-to-fuels devices

Undergraduate/Graduate Research Assistant 2005-2010

Department of Chemistry, University of Virginia

Advisor: W. Dean Harman

M.S. Thesis: Laying the Groundwork for a Tantalum Dearomatization Agent

B.S. Thesis: Synthesis and Application of an η2 N-acetylpyridinium Complex

  • Synthesized tungsten- and tantalum-based organometallic reagents used to modify and enhance the reactivity of stable aromatic arenes and pyridines
  • Investigated the relationship between reactivity enhancement in aromatic ligands and electrochemical properties of the associated organometallic complex