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Alexandra Oliveira

Alexandra Oliveira award winner

Meet the NSF GRFP recipients – Alexandra Oliveira

Alexandra Oliveira is a doctoral student in UD’s chemical and biomolecular engineering program. Focusing on electrochemical hydrogen production through water electrolyzers, she is working on a pure water hydroxide exchange membrane electrolyzer that balances the low-cost benefits of alkaline water electrolyzers and the high performance configuration of proton exchange membrane electrolyzers. Oliveira plans to explore precious metal-free catalysts and membrane electrode assemblies to optimize cell performance and durability.

“Electrochemical engineering is a very interesting approach to the energy crisis,” said Oliveira. “Hydrogen in particular has many unique benefits as an energy storage technology because it can be transported across continents and stored for long periods of time before being used in fuel cells. Perhaps more importantly, it can be used as a feedstock for many industrial processes, such as ammonia synthesis and steel refining, to replace more environmentally detrimental feedstocks. I find the use of the chemical engineering principles of thermodynamics, kinetic and transport together to provide solutions to energy problems very fascinating.”

Yushan Yan, Henry B. du Pont Chair of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, is her research advisor. Oliveira credits Yan for his excellent input on the key advances that are required in the field with this technology as well as his remarkable insight for her project and its importance to the field. Her primary mentor on the project, Junwu Xiao, UD visiting scholar and associate professor at Huazhong University of Science and Technology in China; has trained her on all of the synthesis procedures and electrochemical testing equipment. Brian Setzler, postdoctoral researcher, has also played a key mentoring role by offering insight on directions in which the project could move forward.

“The University of Delaware has provided me with excellent resources and strong faculty in the area of electrochemical engineering and catalysis who can provide input and mentor me through my studies,” said Oliveira, who earned her bachelor’s degree at the University of Connecticut.

After she completes her doctorate at UD, Oliveira would like to do research and design in the field of electrochemical engineering, either for energy storage and conversion devices or in the area of electrochemical corrosion