This contribution is from our friends at San Marino High School’s Titan Shield.
By Valerie Wang ‘16
Many of the traditional types of fuels used are either low in quantity or harmful to the environment. That’s why scientists are looking for alternative fuels, and some of our Titans are on a mission to help research.
Members of the SEAL (Solar Energy Activity Laboratory) Project are trying to find metal oxide semiconductors that can effectively store sunlight, which can then be converted to chemical fuel. The SMHS team consists of veteran members Madeleine Gandawidjaja (12) and Fiona Harrigian (12) and new members Alex Chen (12), Angela Wang (12), Serena Wang (11), Samuel Collo (11), Jonathan Chen (10) and Ajay Natarajan (10).
SMHS was invited in 2009 as one of the schools that collaborates on the SHArK (Solar Hydrogen Activity Research Kit) Project, which later became the current SEAL Project. The SEAL project was initiated at Caltech by Professor Harry Gray in 2011. The educational institutions congregate at Caltech and Huntington Beach twice for national meetings.
“Finding an alternate fuel source is crucial. The SMHS students are helping with this issue,” says adviser Mr. Wyeth Collo, Biology and Chemistry teacher at SMHS.
The Titans meet with their CalTech advisors, Dr. Fadl Saadi and Dr. Paul Kempler. They provide critical material and equipment needed for the research.
“We focus on getting semiconductors that are metal oxides, so, for example, we get a metal solution like Fe(NO3)2 and deposit the metal on a conductive surface of glass, and then heat it to get Fe2O3 deposited on the glass. We also use electroplating, which is depositing a thin layer of metal solution by inducing charges,” says Angela Wang.
Alex Chen explains that the team uses devices such as kilns “to make the metal solutions into metal oxides” and “a kit that can flash LED lights to test how well each metal oxide can split water into H2 and O2 by using sunlight.”
SEAL Project allocates different metal salts for schools to research as catalysts. The San Marino team meets weekly on campus to work on the project. The members continue to work in hopes of contributing to the world of science.