Dr. Jordan Katz
B.A. from Reed College, 1999
Ph.D. from California Institute of Technology, 2008
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Field of Interest: The threat of climate change has made supplying energy cleanly and sustainably one of the most important challenges facing humanity in the 21st century. This area of research is not only of critical importance, but also provides a framework for a host of fascinating fundamental scientific questions. My research is focused on finding new, low-cost designs and materials for solar energy conversion devices that can meet the growing global demand for energy. This work draws from many different disciplines of chemistry, including physical chemistry, analytical chemistry, materials chemistry, inorganic chemistry, as well as nanotechnology. In my research I use a wide range of instruments and experimental methods, such as photo-electrochemistry, spectroscopy, microscopy, and diffraction.
Specifically, I am interested in finding ways to use materials such as iron oxide (Fe2O3, a.k.a. rust) for solar energy collection and conversion. Iron oxide is a semiconductor that is abundant, stable and environmentally friendly — but in particular its properties are optimal for absorption of sunlight. Another promising material is pyrite, FeS2, which is also cheap and abundant and absorbs light strongly. When used in conventional designs, both of these materials suffer from poor transport and collection of charge carriers, resulting in low overall conversion efficiencies. However, by growing crystals in novel nano-structured geometries, thereby separating the axes for light absorption and charge collection, we hope to overcome these limitations while keeping the material’s cost low. Simultaneously, we will explore other approaches to improve the photoelectrochemical properties of these and other related materials with the use of dopants (incorporating a low concentration of another element into the crystal structure). In our research we hope not only to find promising new materials, but also expand our understanding of the fundamental principles that determine the photoelectrochemical and physical properties of semiconducting materials in general.