Thursday, July 11, 2013

SRAP Student Spotlight: Lydia and Fuel Cell Adhesives

SRAPer: Lydia Frost
Home state: Wyoming
Grade: Freshman in college
Studying: Engineering at LeTourneau University in Texas.

Creating a new form of glue isn’t how most students plan on spending their summer. For Lydia Frost however, that’s exactly what she’ll be doing, and she’s excited about it. For her SRAP project, Lydia is working with Dr. Dongmei (Katie) Li in the Chemical and Petroleum Engineering department. “I’m working with fuel cells. What I’m doing is finding an alternate way to bind the catalyst to the membrane. The catalyst and the membrane assembly is called the MEA, or membrane electrode assembly. It’s the main component of a fuel cell that produces the electricity,” says Lydia. “The normal way to make an MEA generates thermal and mechanical stress, and after a few uses, the electrode starts to pull away from the membrane because it doesn’t have very good interfacial contact. So, I’m just trying to find a different way of gluing it together.”The work that Lydia will be doing on finding an alternative adhesive will be vital for the field of fuel cell research. Not only is this work important, but it’s a great chance for Lydia to practice what she’s learned in school. “It’s fun to actually put the MEA together and work in the lab and get to use the stuff that you read about,” says Lydia. While Lydia now enjoys science, this hasn’t always been the case. An experience at a young age, however, changed that for her. “I guess I started liking science when I took physical science in junior high,” says Lydia. “I really liked it, mostly because I had a really awesome teacher and he made it very cool. So, I got really interested in science.”Her experience in junior high led Lydia to have an interest in STEM fields. She plans to study engineering, and math has always been interesting to her. “My favorite subject in school was math. I like it because it’s really fun to solve problems and understand them,” Lydia says. “It’s just fun to work with something until you understand and are to solve it.”The opportunity to work on a real-life research project is a unique experience for most high school students. While the research that Lydia is doing is challenging, she is gaining knowledge and experience in the field of research that will serve her well in her future.
SRAP is a six-week intensive research program based at the University of Wyoming and sponsored by Wyoming EPSCoR.

By Robin E. Rasmussen and Kali S. McCrackin
Photo by Robin E. Rasmussen

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