Year Awarded: 2020
Research Lab: William Tarpeh
Elizabeth Corson received her B.S. in Chemical Engineering from the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago. Before graduate school, Elizabeth worked as a Research Associate at Air Liquide where she studied carbon dioxide capture from coal-fired power plants using polymeric hollow fiber membranes. Elizabeth was a NSF Graduate Research Fellow and will receive her Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from UC Berkeley in December 2020. During doctoral training under the guidance of Professor Bryan McCloskey, she studied plasmon-enhanced electrochemical carbon dioxide reduction, a field that could help mitigate climate change while producing valuable fuels or chemicals.
Recovering Ammonia from Wastewater: Towards Selective and Efficient Nitrate Reduction
Nitrate pollution of wastewater from agricultural runoff and industrial waste streams is common around the globe. Nitrate negatively impacts the environment through harmful algal blooms and can be dangerous for human consumption. Electrochemical nitrate reduction addresses the water-energy nexus by converting nitrate in wastewater to ammonia, offsetting the cost of water treatment and reducing demand for ammonia produced by the Haber-Bosch process, which accounts for 1% of annual global energy consumption and generates 320 million tons of carbon dioxide per year. Nitrate reduction can be done from small to large scales, use renewable electricity, and eliminate the need for expensive and hazardous chemicals. However, the nitrate reduction process must be selective to ammonia to avoid the formation of other undesired products and be efficient by occurring at a low overpotential to minimize operating costs from electricity. Elizabeth's project will address these challenges by gaining a fundamental understanding of the molecular mechanisms at the surface of the electrode through in situ spectroscopic techniques, including infrared spectroscopy and X-ray spectroscopy.