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Chemistry in Motion - Energy

Project Full Title:

Chemical Avenues to Sustainable Energy Consumption

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Project Description:

BACKGROUND: The Elinski Lab focuses on surface chemistry and tribology - the study of surfaces in relative motion (including friction, adhesion, lubrication, and wear).

There is a significant imbalance between energy produced in the United States vs that which is consumed, with roughly two-thirds of produced energy wasted. One source of this loss is the energy dissipation associated with friction and wear between surfaces in relative motion. To address this, one goal of the Elinski Lab is to understand how fundamental chemical mechanisms in sliding contacts can be capitalized on for controlling friction and wear processes.

PROJECT OVERVIEW: Student researchers on this project will study confined, nanoscale dynamic (sliding) contacts to understand chemical-mechanical relationships. Surface modification methods - including nanoparticle films to control roughness and self-assembled monolayers to control functionality - will be used to systematically interrogate the formation of protective tribofilms. Tribofilms are surface-bound films that develop as a result of chemical processes driven by mechanical forces. A better understanding of tribofilm formation can help develop advanced control over sliding interfaces, improving strategies towards mitigating energy loss.

A suite of analytical instruments will be used for this work, including atomic force microscopy (AFM), scanning electron microscopy and energy dispersive spectroscopy (SEM/EDS), and attenuated total reflectance Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy (ATR-FTIR).

DETAILS: The summer research program will consist of 10 forty-hour work weeks to be conducted in the Elinski Lab on Hope College’s campus.* In addition to the research there are professional development activities, along with planned social events throughout the summer to meet fellow chemistry researchers and students conducting research in other departments! There is also the potential for research projects to be continued into the following academic year.

Working on this research will provide students with a strong foundation in fundamental chemistry at surfaces and interfaces along with multidisciplinary skills in materials, mechanics, and the wider reaching principles of nanoscience. As the primary leads for their research, students will also have opportunities for authoring peer-reviewed journal articles and presenting and networking at scientific conferences.

*if the summer 2021 research program is impacted by COVID-19, additional details and planning will be shared accordingly

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