Rachel Yang is currently an undergraduate student studying Chemical and Biochemical Engineering. She is an intern at the Rutgers Energy Institute for the summer of 2016, working with Professor Fuat Celik research group.
1: Please briefly describe your research. I work as a part of the Celik Catalysis Group as an experimentalist in green energy. We work to engineer catalysts that can utilize sunlight to drive chemical reactions in more sustainable and renewable ways. The chemical reactions that our group is interested in are reactions that generate hydrogen. Hydrogen is a form of green energy because of its clean combustion. This form of energy holds great potential to be an alternative to conventional energy sources like fossil fuels and has a multitude of applications. Hydrogen has a high energy density and can be used in fuel cells that can generate electricity to drive generators or automobile engines. Currently, a majority of Hydrogen is produced industrially via unrenewable and unsustainable processes.These processes are energy intensive and can release noxious gases that are not environmentally friendly. We also aim to use renewable sources, like biomass or biogas, to generate hydrogen. The combined use of solar irradiation and renewable sources will make hydrogen generation more sustainable for a greener future.
2: How did you come to be involved in this research? I started research as a part of the Aresty Summer Science program last summer. Prior to research, I was interested in environmental issues because of an incident that happened in my neighborhood. After Hurricane Sandy, waste from the shore was being disposed of incorrectly in a landfill that was close to my home. No one was aware of what was happening until we began to smell a sulfuric odor that was so strong that it curbed most thoughts of outdoor activities. Throughout the next few weeks, there were efforts to construct a system to neutralize the odor and reduce the concentration of harmful gases. We saw a marked increase in air quality that allowed us to enjoy being outside again. After this incident, I grew to be interested in the environment and gained an incredible opportunity to work in Professor Celik's research lab on green energy.
3: Where do you see your research fitting into our energy future? Energy generation and consumption is an integral part of the way our society works, but we have also seen an increasing effect on the environment. There is a tremendous research effort into finding alternative sources and forms of energy that are both more renewable and sustainable. My research within the Celik Catalysis Group is a part of this effort since we are trying to engineer and learn about process pathways that evolve Hydrogen, a green form of energy. Hydrogen fuel may be the future mainstream source of energy to accompany or replace fossil fuels for use in many parts of our lives including transportation, agriculture, and technology. It can be derived from natural and abundant sources such as water or biomass like glucose with minimal harmful side products. The future of energy is greener and I believe that my research has a great potential to contribute.