Chemistry Alum Working to Further Renewable Energy

By Tatyanna Pruitt

 

Jared Delcamp never questioned where he would go to college.

“Growing up in Kentucky and watching the Wildcats play makes you ready to be a part of the Big Blue Nation,” he said.

A native Kentuckian, Delcamp was born and raised in Monticello and chose to study medicine when he first came to the University of Kentucky as an undergraduate in 2000. He credits chemistry professor John Anthony with mentoring him throughout his college career, but when Delcamp first met Professor Anthony, he thought he wanted to pursue a career in medicine.

“I couldn’t decide if I wanted to do chemistry or medicine,” Delcamp said. “I thought chemistry was cool, but when you’re from a small town, if you’re smart, you’re supposed to be a doctor.”

It only took one semester for Delcamp to decide that he was passionate about chemistry. As an undergraduate, he continued to study under Anthony, who quickly became one of his favorite professors.

“Having the opportunity to study in Anthony’s research lab was fantastic. John is a great mentor who has a great balance between explaining things and getting you working independently,” Delcamp said. “There were motivated graduate students there to assist with problems and a core group of undergraduates I worked alongside. We worked crazy hours and had a great time doing it. We all wanted to see science happen and worked hard to make exciting discoveries a reality.”

Delcamp earned his bachelor’s degree in chemistry in 2005 and his doctorate from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in 2010. His post-doctoral research was conducted at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and Georgia Institute of Technology.

“The Chemistry Department at UK prepared me so well for graduate school, that I was able to go to a top five ranked graduate school and feel completely equipped to excel there,” Delcamp said.

Now a professor at the University of Mississippi, Delcamp is leading a research group focused on organometallic complexes for photocatalytic carbon dioxide reduction and dye synthesis for dye-sensitized solar cells. He and his group have taken water and carbon dioxide and converted it back to chemical fuel using just sunlight.

“There aren’t a lot of systems like this and we have been successful. We have a way to use sunlight, CO2 and water to make a carbon fuel.” Delcamp said. “We can use the same system with just sunlight and water to make hydrogen. Either of these processes can provide clean renewable energy to sustain the world's energy needs.”

There are very few solar powered systems that can split water into hydrogen or react CO2 with oxidized water to give fuels from a small area device, he explained.

“We can use an area the size of a pea which is powerful enough to allow hydrogen and oxygen bubbles to be observed streaming off of our catalyst surface. This rate is remarkable,” Delcamp said.  “It gets better in that we use abundant organic molecules, which are very stable, to make this happen. These devices are so stable, we can submerge them in water and watch hydrogen be produced for days.”

A paper on their research was recently published in the journal Energy and Environmental Sciences. Looking ahead, Delcamp and his research group are hoping to improve their current system and make the process more efficient.

“What we are doing has never been researched before,” he said. “There are no examples for us to follow, so every step forward is exciting and there is so much further we can go.”

To read the article The Delcamp Group published, click here: http://rsc.li/2zukivQ

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