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Joy Yiran Wang, 17, of Orefield, experimented with polyoxometalates (POMs) for her Intel Science Talent Search chemistry project. POMs are unusual compounds that can function as both surfactants (fluids that help substances mix together) and catalysts. Joy investigated whether this would make POMs effective in crude oil refinement, where breaking down organic sulfur compounds is challenging. Adding a POM allows hydrogen peroxide to mix with and attack the sulfur compound; Joy found that she could enhance the POM's effectiveness by raising the pH because that increased the surface area of the globules. She also unexpectedly found that at a pH below 5 the nature of the globules changed, which caused the organic sulfur to continue to break down rapidly, regardless of subsequent pH changes. Joy is second author of a paper on this work, which has already been published in Chemistry – A European Journal. Joy heads the science fair club and co-captains the debate team at Parkland High School in Allentown, where she also plays varsity tennis. She is a member of the Student Senate, a violinist and chemistry tutor. Joy is the daughter of Xiaoyi He and Yadong Wang and is fluent in conversational Chinese.
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