The FINESST Fellowship will provide me the opportunity to further explore the proposed project 'Experimental Studies to Determine the Impact of Propane, Acetylene, and Ethylene In and Around Titan's Lakes' for the next three years. I will experimentally create varying mixing ratios of methane, ethane, propane, ethylene, acetylene, and nitrogen and explore their phase boundaries in an attempt to constrain the quantities of minority species in Titan's lakes. These experiments will also hopefully provide some insight into the processes occurring in the lake environments.
I have recently completed work on the methane-ethane binary phase diagram and an accompanying paper that was accepted for publication to The Planetary Science Journal. In this research, I used Raman spectroscopy to probe the phase changes of the methane-ethane system at temperatures ranging between 50 and 95 K and at pressures <1.5 bar. During this time I also looked more closely at the solid phase transitions of ethane. There are three solid phases that occur between 89 and 90 K, making this interesting both in the extremely narrow range these transitions happen and its consequences for Titan.
Outer Solar System Material
Although I have a soft spot for Titan, I overall enjoy studying the icy material found on bodies in the outer Solar System. Pluto's Sputnik Planitia region is of particular interest and I've contributed to past research in the lab focusing on the carbon monoxide-nitrogen-methane system. All three of these species are found in the region and the combination of them could help explain the convective processes in the area.
While my current focus is on Titan, I do hope to have the opportunity in the near future to further explore the more icy bodies of the outer Solar System.
L'Appel Du Vide:
The interactions of polymer electrolytes with the sites of delamination in supercapacitors
As part of the Astronomy and Planetary Science PhD program, students are expected to take on an additional project during their second year. This project must be outside of the student's current field of study and/or utilize a different method of data collection.
L'appel du vide is French for 'call of the void' and is the phrase used to describe the passing feeling of wanting to jump from a high place. While a bit morbid, I call my second project by this name as it reflects the intention of determining whether lithium cations are attracted to the sites of delamination--where the electrode and electrolyte separate after prolonged usage--in supercapacitors. I am working with Dr. Gerrick Lindberg (NAU Applied Physics and Materials Science Department and Biochemistry and Chemistry Department) to create molecular dynamics simulations of polyethylene oxide (PEO), Bistriflimide (TFSI-), and lithium ions (Li+) and their reactions when introduced to a vapor interface. As the polymer electrolyte equilibrates, we are able to determine the interaction of Li+ with the vapor interface, which elucidates whether the ion hears the call of the void.
While this project is not focused on planetary science, it will still provide invaluable skills, especially in learning out to run molecular dynamics simulations. This could prove to be quite beneficial in pairing with my phase boundary studies and create a more robust narrative.