Chemistry News

All inorganic approach makes better-performing perovskites for solar cells, LEDs

Javier Vela, associate professor of chemistry, specializes in optical materials. His research group develops perovskite materials through soft chemistry— low-environmental impact processes that use room temperature and solution-phase reactions.

The research is further discussed in the paper, “Aliovalent Doping of Lead Halide Perovskites: Exploring the CH3NH3PbI3—(CH3NH3)3Sb2I9 Nanocrystalline Phase Space,” authored by Feng Zhu, Noreen E. Gentry, Long Men, Miles A. White, and Javier Vela; and published in a Special Issue of the Journal of Physical Chemistry C.

Chemistry Faculty work with Science Bound Students

Science Bound is a program started by Iowa State University to empower Iowa students of color to pursue degrees and careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). The program works with middle and high school students from Des Moines, Denison and Marshalltown.

Each summer, the Young Engineers and Scientists (YES) program at Iowa State works with Science Bound students. YES is a six-week paid internship where students work with a faculty mentor on research in STEM disciplines at Iowa State. YES also holds seminars for the students to focus on their academic and professional development.

Emily Smith, professor of chemistry, is among the faculty mentors working with YES this summer. Smith will work with a student to use light to investigate properties of different types of samples. They will focus on the effects of temperature on chemicals that have intriguing but poorly understood properties. The Science Bound students bring a fresh perspective and excitement to the lab.

Javier Vela, associate professor of chemistry, started a local chapter of Project SEED at Iowa State, a summer research program through the American Chemistry Society to give economically disadvantaged students a glimpse of what it’s like to be a chemist.

Vela works with Science Bound to recruit students for the program. This year there were more than 40 applicants. Three students were chosen from Roosevelt and North High School in Des Moines and will work with Vela; Vincenzo Venditti, assistant professor of chemistry; and Jared Anderson, professor of chemistry.

New thermoelectric material may reduce wasted energy

Waste energy in the form of heat has big potential that Kirill Kovnir wants to see recaptured and used. “Normally as a country in general, we waste more than 60 percent of the energy we generate as heat, which we emit to the environment,” Kovnir said.

The new material he synthesized is an intermetallic clathrate, a solid compound in which one component is trapped within the crystalline framework of another. Kovnir has synthesized a material made of copper-phosphorous cages each containing lanthanum cations.

Building tools with organic chemistry

Brett VanVeller is passionate about helping students learn to apply their chemistry knowledge in a logical manner. He helps students connect very basic characteristics of atoms, such as their electronic properties, with how that relates to their structure, then how the structure relates to their activity and so on, building a framework for understanding how all the pieces fit together.

Read more about VanVeller's teaching and research.

Burnett shares enthusiasm for chemistry at Hillside Elementary

Joseph (Joe) Burnett, senior lecturer of chemistry, recently shared chemistry demonstrations with sixth-graders at Hillside Elementary School in Des Moines. The students had so many questions before he even started that he had to cut them short to have time to share the demonstrations.

Setting a standard for security

Houk devised, demonstrated and improved an experiment called inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS). From searching for nuclear weapon activity to monitoring human health, ICP-MS detects what no other instrument can. Houk’s development of ICP-MS changed standards and methods in detecting and monitoring trace elements.

ICP-MS is not the only method for detecting trace elements, but it does provide the most comprehensive picture to date. It can measure 70 or more elements down to 1 part per trillion, providing more information to be seen with fewer samples and in less time.

Finding trace amounts of elements may seem similar to the task of searching for a needle in a haystack. But, thanks to Houk, it is now done with an extremely sensitive, multielement metal detector.

Newly discovered copper and graphite combo could lead to more efficient lithium-ion batteries

“Copper is a highly conductive material but susceptible to oxidation. Being able to successfully embed it just underneath the surface of graphite protects the copper, and suggests a number of potential applications, including battery technology,” said Research Assistant Ann Lii-Rosales.

Summer, 2018 Dean's High Impact Awards for Undergraduate Research

Department of Chemistry earned three Summer, 2018 Dean's High Impact Awards for Undergraduate Research. One went to Katelyn Baumler who is being mentored by Javier Vela, the second one was earned by Zachary Robole who will be guded by Brett VanVeller, and the third one went to Anthony Song who is in the lab of Jacob Petrich.

Undergraduate research is a high impact activity that will sharpen critical thinking skills and is a great credential when applying to professional or graduate school. In addition, it gives students valuable preparation that is recognized by employers. Congratulations on being selected for the highly competitive awards.

P&S Excellence Award

Congratulations to Trond Forre for receiving the P&S Excellence Award.

LAS Achievement in Interllectual Property Award

Congratulations to Wenyu Huang for receiving the LAS Achievement in Intellectual Property Award.

2018 Exemplary Faculty Mentors

to Emily Smith and William Jenks for being recognized by the Provost's Office as 2018 Exemplary Faculty Mentors!

Promotion to Senior Lecturer

Congratulations to Cristina Bonaccorsi on her promotion to Senior Lecturer!

Article picked up by Chemical & Engineering News

A recent paper by Beatrice Berzina and Prof. Robbyn Anand got picked up by C&E News. 

Distinguished Professor of Chemistry

A formal university announcement will come out this fall, but a congratulations goes out now to Theresa Windus on being named a Distinguished Professor. This will make three Distinguished Professors for the Department of Chemistry along with Mark Gordon (1998) and Pat Thiel (2002).

A Distinguished Professor above all else must have accomplishments in research, and/or creative activities that have had a significant impact on, or improved the quality of, their discipline. In addition a Distinguished Professor must have demonstrated outstanding performance in at least one other area of faculty responsibility: (1) teaching and advising, (2) extension/professional practice, or (3) institutional service.

Congratulations (Distinguished) Professor Windus on this recognition.

An unexpected passion

Graduating senior Grace Lutovsky,  found an unexpected passion in research. Since her junior year she has been actively researching with Levi Stanley, assistant professor in chemistry. One of their projects included working on a reaction to change the composition of a steroid, which could potentially lead to a new class of drug molecules. Now she’s headed to graduate school to pursue chemistry research and has received an honorable mention for a graduate research fellowship from the National Science Foundation (NSF).