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Chemistry Seminar: Sara Thoi, Ph.D. "Designing Functional Sites in Porous Materials for Energy Storage and Conversion"

Thursday, October 22, 2020 4:15pm to 5:00pm

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Sara Thoi, Department of Chemistry, Johns Hopkins University

Sara Thoi was raised in Los Angeles, CA and found her love for chemistry as a high school student. Her interest in research was solidified at UC San Diego, where she conducted research in coordination complexes and metal organic frameworks and obtained her B.S. in Chemistry in 2008. She then traveled up the state to UC Berkeley where she received her PhD in Chemistry in 2013, studying molecular catalysts for photo- and electrochemical reduction of protons and carbon dioxide. Returning back to Los Angeles, Sara completed her postdoctoral work on the development of metal-carbon composites for solid acid fuel cells at Caltech in the Materials Science Department. In 2014, Sara was awarded the Young Investigator Award by the American Chemical Society, Division of Inorganic Chemistry.

She joined the Department of Chemistry at JHU in 2015 as an assistant professor. Her research group is focused on 1) the development of conductive metal and covalent organic frameworks for electrode and electrolyte materials in fuel cells and batteries, 2) the use of conductive aerogels as scaffolds for catalytic reactions, and 3) the discovery of new molecular metal complexes for activating energy-relevant small molecules.

"Designing Functional Sites in Porous Materials for Energy Storage and Conversion"

Despite their high theoretical specific energy of 2,600 Wh kg-1, the commercialization of Li-S devices is hindered by irreversible capacity loss from the dissolution of polysulfide intermediates in the electrolyte solution. We report novel strategies to design reactive sites for polysulfide adsorption in metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) to improve capacity retention and ionic conductivity. Incorporation of redox-active moieties in the framework further enable fast charge and discharge capabilities. Identifying structure-property-function relationships in tunable molecular platforms offer new methods to advance electrochemical storage technologies.  In addition, we will present new strategies to probe the electrode-electrolyte interfaces in electrocatalysis using advanced electrochemical techniques such as in-situ vibrational spectroscopy and electrochemical impedance spectroscopy. The ubiquity of surfactants and carbon supports in catalysis warrants a closer examination on their influence on the electrode-electrolyte interface during carbon dioxide reduction. New insights on the impact of molecular additives and carbonaceous materials on product formation and Faradaic efficiency in electrocatalytic carbon conversion will be discussed.

This event is supported by the Thomas Dunne Lecture Fund.

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