Spring 2013 - Nanostructured Photocatalysts

Nanostructured photocatalysts for green chemistry and sustainable catalysis

Nanoscale materials with precise structure and composition offer unique opportunities in the development of catalytic processes for green and sustainable chemistry. Following a long tradition of successful undergraduate researchers and summer interns in our lab, SULI students in the Vela group will apply principles of nanomaterial synthesis, green chemistry, and catalysis to investigate photochemical transformations of renewable and alternative energy sources, with an emphasis on carbon dioxide (CO2) and biomass-relevant substrates.

The Vela group focuses on the design of distinct, powerful and widely applicable synthetic strategies spanning the continuum between the molecular and nano scales, and that enable effective processing and incorporation of nanomaterials into innovative energy conversion and catalytic technologies.[1-4] We are particularly interested in the use of hybrid heterostructured nanocomposites as photocatalysts for the selective solar-to-chemical energy conversion of biomass-derived substrates (polyols) into useful chemicals (biopolymers) and fuels (molecular hydrogen).[5]

The specific project that an SULI student in our lab will work on is the investigation and development of a mechanism by which nanoscale heterostructured photocatalysts can be coupled in tandem with soluble organometallic catalysts in order to do cascade reactions (biomass to feedstock). This research will allow the SULI student to learn and develop advanced concepts and techniques in sustainable chemistry and nanomaterials.

Program mentor: Javier Vela, assistant professor, Chemistry, Iowa State University

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