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Exploring the fundamentals of photo-induced chemical reaction mechanisms

Use high-speed lasers to initiate a water-splitting reaction to probe products for analysis.

Photocatalysis involves both electron and hole transfer, as well as molecular re-arrangement on a surface

Photocatalysis involves both electron and hole transfer, as well as molecular re-arrangement on a surface.

Photo-induced chemical reactions convert solar energy into chemical energy that can drive chemical reactions. This makes the photo-induced reactions an essential element for a ‘green’ future.

These chemical reactions require a catalyst, termed a photocatalyst, that reduces the activation energy of the reactions and enable the photons from the sunlight to be able to drive the reaction.

However, the current state of the photo-induced reactions requires significant amount of improvement before they can be put to daily use.

Photo-induced chemical reactions are used to accomplish various objectives such as:

  • water and air purification;
  • self-cleaning and self-sterilising surfaces;
  • degradation of volatile compounds;
  • eco-friendly surface treatments; and 
  • water-splitting.

Our current focus is on the water-splitting reaction. Hydrogen is considered to be the fuel of our ‘green’ future. However, green hydrogen needs to be cheaper before it can be adopted commercially to displace fossil fuels. 

Understanding the individual steps that make up the photocatalytic reaction mechanism can reveal the factors that can make the process more efficient for hydrogen production.

We have built a novel experiment consisting of a modified TOF-mass spectrometer which is being utilised to study the molecular re-arrangements involved in the later parts of the reaction. High-speed lasers are used to initiate the water-splitting reaction and to probe the products for analysis.

Skills in operating high energy lasers, high vacuum pumps and HV power supplies will be developed as well as learning to undertake advanced quantum computational calculations and simulations. 

Greg Metha

Supervisor

Professor Gregory Metha

Research area: Chemistry

Recommended honours enrolmentHonours in Chemistry

Tagged in Honours projects - Chemistry, Honours projects - Greg Metha