Matching Items (4)

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Photovoltaic electrolysis propulsion system

Description

CubeSats are a newly emerging, low-cost, rapid development platform for space exploration research. They are small spacecraft with a mass and volume of up to 12 kg and 12,000 cm3, respectively. To date, CubeSats have only been flown in Low

CubeSats are a newly emerging, low-cost, rapid development platform for space exploration research. They are small spacecraft with a mass and volume of up to 12 kg and 12,000 cm3, respectively. To date, CubeSats have only been flown in Low Earth Orbit (LEO), though a large number are currently being designed to be dropped off by a mother ship on Earth escape trajectories intended for Lunar and Martian flyby missions. Advancements in propulsion technologies now enable these spacecraft to achieve capture orbits around the moon and Mars, providing a wealth of scientific data at low-cost. However, the mass, volume and launch constraints of CubeSats severely limit viable propulsion options.

We present an innovative propulsion solution using energy generated by onboard photovoltaic panels to electrolyze water, thus producing combustible hydrogen and oxygen for low-thrust applications. Water has a high storage density allowing for sufficient fuel within volume constraints. Its high enthalpy of formation provides more fuel that translates into increased ∆V and vastly reduced risk for the launch vehicle. This innovative technology poses significant challenges including the design and operation of electrolyzers at ultra-cold temperatures, the efficient separation of the resultant hydrogen and oxygen gases from liquid water in a microgravity environment, as well as the effective utilization of thrust to produce desired trajectories.

Analysis of the gas combustion and flow through the nozzle using both theoretical equations and finite-volume CFD modeling suggests an expected specific impulse of 360 s. Preliminary results from AGI's Satellite Toolkit (STK) indicate that the ΔV produced by the system for an 8kg CubeSat with 6kg of propellant in a LEO orbit (370 km altitude) is sufficient for an earth escape trajectory, lunar capture orbit or even a Mars capture orbit. These results suggest a promising pathway for an in-depth study supported by laboratory experiments to characterize the strengths and weaknesses of the proposed concept.

Contributors

Agent

Created

Date Created
2015

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Experimental and computational studies on the design of dyes for water-splitting dye-sensitized photoelectrochemical tandem cells

Description

Solar energy is a promising alternative for addressing the world's current and future energy requirements in a sustainable way. Because solar irradiation is intermittent, it is necessary to store this energy in the form of a fuel so it can

Solar energy is a promising alternative for addressing the world's current and future energy requirements in a sustainable way. Because solar irradiation is intermittent, it is necessary to store this energy in the form of a fuel so it can be used when required. The light-driven splitting of water into oxygen and hydrogen (a useful chemical fuel) is a fascinating theoretical and experimental challenge that is worth pursuing because the advance of the knowledge that it implies and the availability of water and sunlight. Inspired by natural photosynthesis and building on previous work from our laboratory, this dissertation focuses on the development of water-splitting dye-sensitized photoelectrochemical tandem cells (WSDSPETCs). The design, synthesis, and characterization of high-potential porphyrins and metal-free phthalocyanines with phosphonic anchoring groups are reported. Photocurrents measured for WSDSPETCs made with some of these dyes co-adsorbed with molecular or colloidal catalysts on TiO2 electrodes are reported as well. To guide in the design of new molecules we have used computational quantum chemistry extensively. Linear correlations between calculated frontier molecular orbital energies and redox potentials were built and tested at multiple levels of theory (from semi-empirical methods to density functional theory). Strong correlations (with r2 values > 0.99) with very good predictive abilities (rmsd < 50 mV) were found when using density functional theory (DFT) combined with a continuum solvent model. DFT was also used to aid in the elucidation of the mechanism of the thermal relaxation observed for the charge-separated state of a molecular triad that mimics the photo-induced proton coupled electron transfer of the tyrosine-histidine redox relay in the reaction center of Photosystem II. It was found that the inclusion of explicit solvent molecules, hydrogen bonded to specific sites within the molecular triad, was essential to explain the observed thermal relaxation. These results are relevant for both advancing the knowledge about natural photosynthesis and for the future design of new molecules for WSDSPETCs.

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Agent

Created

Date Created
2014

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Nanoscale heterogeneities in visible light absorbing photocatalysts: connecting structure to functionality through electron microscopy and spectroscopy

Description

Photocatalytic water splitting over suspended nanoparticles represents a potential solution for achieving CO2-neutral energy generation and storage. To design efficient photocatalysts, a fundamental understanding of the material’s structure, electronic properties, defects, and how these are controlled via synthesis is essential.

Photocatalytic water splitting over suspended nanoparticles represents a potential solution for achieving CO2-neutral energy generation and storage. To design efficient photocatalysts, a fundamental understanding of the material’s structure, electronic properties, defects, and how these are controlled via synthesis is essential. Both bulk and nanoscale materials characterization, in addition to various performance metrics, can be combined to elucidate functionality at multiple length scales. In this work, two promising visible light harvesting systems are studied in detail: Pt-functionalized graphitic carbon nitrides (g-CNxHys) and TiO2-supported CeO2-x composites.

Electron energy-loss spectroscopy (EELS) is used to sense variations in the local concentration of amine moieties (defects believed to facilitate interfacial charge transfer) at the surface of a g-CNxHy flake. Using an aloof-beam configuration, spatial resolution is maximized while minimizing damage thus providing nanoscale vibrational fingerprints similar to infrared absorption spectra. Structural disorder in g-CNxHys is further studied using transmission electron microscopy at low electron fluence rates. In-plane structural fluctuations revealed variations in the local azimuthal orientation of the heptazine building blocks, allowing planar domain sizes to be related to the average polymer chain length. Furthermore, competing factors regulating photocatalytic performance in a series of Pt/g-CNxHys is elucidated. Increased polymer condensation in the g-CNxHy support enhances the rate of charge transfer to reactants owing to higher electronic mobility. However, active site densities are over 3x lower on the most condensed g-CNxHy which ultimately limits its H2 evolution rate (HER). Based on these findings, strategies to improve the cocatalyst configuration on intrinsically active supports are given.

In TiO2/CeO2-x photocatalysts, the effect of the support particle size on the bulk
anoscale properties and photocatalytic performance is investigated. Small anatase supports facilitate highly dispersed CeO2-x species, leading to increased visible light absorption and HERs resulting from a higher density of mixed metal oxide (MMO) interfaces with Ce3+ species. Using monochromated EELS, bandgap states associated with MMO interfaces are detected, revealing electronic transitions from 0.5 eV up to the bulk bandgap onset of anatase. Overall, the electron microscopy/spectroscopy techniques developed and applied herein sheds light onto the relevant defects and limiting processes operating within these photocatalyst systems thus suggesting rational design strategies.

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Agent

Created

Date Created
2019

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Time-resolved crystallography using X-ray free-electron laser

Description

Photosystem II (PSII) is a large protein-cofactor complex. The first step in

photosynthesis involves the harvesting of light energy from the sun by the antenna (made

of pigments) of the PSII trans-membrane complex. The harvested excitation energy is

transferred from the antenna complex

Photosystem II (PSII) is a large protein-cofactor complex. The first step in

photosynthesis involves the harvesting of light energy from the sun by the antenna (made

of pigments) of the PSII trans-membrane complex. The harvested excitation energy is

transferred from the antenna complex to the reaction center of the PSII, which leads to a

light-driven charge separation event, from water to plastoquinone. This phenomenal

process has been producing the oxygen that maintains the oxygenic environment of our

planet for the past 2.5 billion years.

The oxygen molecule formation involves the light-driven extraction of 4 electrons

and protons from two water molecules through a multistep reaction, in which the Oxygen

Evolving Center (OEC) of PSII cycles through 5 different oxidation states, S0 to S4.

Unraveling the water-splitting mechanism remains as a grant challenge in the field of

photosynthesis research. This requires the development of an entirely new capability, the

ability to produce molecular movies. This dissertation advances a novel technique, Serial

Femtosecond X-ray crystallography (SFX), into a new realm whereby such time-resolved

molecular movies may be attained. The ultimate goal is to make a “molecular movie” that

reveals the dynamics of the water splitting mechanism using time-resolved SFX (TRSFX)

experiments and the uniquely enabling features of X-ray Free-Electron Laser

(XFEL) for the study of biological processes.

This thesis presents the development of SFX techniques, including development of

new methods to analyze millions of diffraction patterns (~100 terabytes of data per XFEL

experiment) with the goal of solving the X-ray structures in different transition states.

ii

The research comprises significant advancements to XFEL software packages (e.g.,

Cheetah and CrystFEL). Initially these programs could evaluate only 8-10% of all the

data acquired successfully. This research demonstrates that with manual optimizations,

the evaluation success rate was enhanced to 40-50%. These improvements have enabled

TR-SFX, for the first time, to examine the double excited state (S3) of PSII at 5.5-Å. This

breakthrough demonstrated the first indication of conformational changes between the

ground (S1) and the double-excited (S3) states, a result fully consistent with theoretical

predictions.

The power of the TR-SFX technique was further demonstrated with proof-of principle

experiments on Photoactive Yellow Protein (PYP) micro-crystals that high

temporal (10-ns) and spatial (1.5-Å) resolution structures could be achieved.

In summary, this dissertation research heralds the development of the TR-SFX

technique, protocols, and associated data analysis methods that will usher into practice a

new era in structural biology for the recording of ‘molecular movies’ of any biomolecular

process.

Contributors

Agent

Created

Date Created
2015