Podcast discusses creating inexpensive catalysts for renewable energy

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Thursday, August 26, 2021
The Growing Impact podcast discusses foundational research by scientists who have been awarded Institutes of Energy and the Environment seed grants. Image: Brenna Buck

The latest episode of the Growing Impact podcast features Mauricio Terrones, Verne M. Willaman Professor of physics and professor of materials science, and Lauren Zarzar, assistant professor of chemistry. The Eberly College of Science researchers discuss their seed grant project that focuses on developing less expensive catalysts used in the process of splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen for use as renewable energy.

Generally, catalysts are made of precious metals and are expensive to manufacture. Terrones and Zarzar discuss their novel method of using laser synthesis to quickly create and test catalysts composed of common metals.

“It's hard to design the perfect catalyst,” Zarzar said. “We're taking this approach of 'Let's try to make a bunch of different materials that we think have promising attributes by a processing method that's never been explored for this,' and we're able to make materials that have structures that nobody has previously studied and getting significantly good results.”

Growing Impact is a podcast by the Institutes of Energy and the Environment (IEE). It features Penn State researchers who have been awarded IEE seed grants and discusses their foundational work as they further their projects.