Inorganic and Materials

Research Project

Thermoelectic Materials capable of converting heat into power and vise versa can be used for a wide range of applications in freon-free refrigerators, waste heat converters and direct solar energy converters.

Ion Conductors & Catalysts. Solid ion conductors are an important component of the emergent electrochemical energy storage systems. We research novel chalcogenide and pnictide materials with various dimensionalities with respect to their ionic conductivities.

Superconductors are an important type of materials capable of conducting electricity without energy loss and repelling magnetic fields. To understand the electronic and magnetic interactions in superconductors, it is preferable to study a single building block. We have developed a low-temperature synthetic route to highly crystalline materials containing Fe-X fragments separated by classical coordination chemistry complexes.

Green Catalytic Chemistry. Early transition metal, rare earth, and main group organometallics provide new opportunities in catalytic conversion. These metal centers, such as magnesium (II), lanthanum (III), and Zirconium (IV) form highly polar bonds with nitrogen, oxygen and to some extent carbon. Rich organometallic chemistry of such metal-carbon containing organometallic compounds are valuable in carbon-carbon bond forming chemistry, whereas the polarity of metal-nitrogen and particular metal-oxygen bonds might be limiting in catalytic chemistry. Still, catalysts based on these metal centers are desirable based on their abundance, cost and toxicity. Moreover, these metal centers offer possibilities in complimentary reactivity to first-row transition metal complexes and noble metal catalysts.

Asymmetric Hydroamination. Hydroamination is the addition of N-H bonds and C=C bonds to give new N-C bonded products. This transformation is potentially useful in a number of applications, and requires a catalyst to control and mediate the transformation. A number of challenges face hydroamination, from the perspective of catalyst design, mechanism, and efficiency to application in commodity and fine chemical synthesis.

Divalent Rare Earth Chemistry. We have been synthesizing rare earth and main group alkyl compounds as catalysts precursors, and as catalysts in their own right. Unlike many transition metal complexes, main group and rare earth alkyl compounds containing β-H atoms (i.e., M–C–C–H) often resist β-H elimination that leads to metal-carbon bond cleavage.

Multitasking Nanostructures. Developing methods to control relative locations of multiple functionalities is key to synthesize advanced materials capable of displaying sophisticated behaviors like cooperativity between neighboring groups or co-localization of mutually incompatible species within the same material. Some of the multifunctionalized nanostructured materials include multicatalytic systems that lead reactants through tandem processes behaving like nanosized assembly lines, or nanorefining units that selectively isolate and convert target substances from complex feedstocks like crude microalgal oil into renewable fuels. Tuning the properties of these materials allow also replacing expensive precious metal catalysts with inexpensive earth abundant elements, with the aim of improving the economy of important catalytic reactions: we have recently shown how hydrotreatment of crude microalgal oil can be efficiently performed with Ni or Fe catalysts as alternatives to Pd, Pt or sulfided metals.

Local Environment Control. Control chemical processes in nanoconfined domains. To this end our team develops porous nanostructured materials capable of constraining solvated species to dimensions within the range of five to ten times their molecular size. This allows us exploring the effects of partially restricted motion on molecular stability, supramolecular interactions and chemical reactivity. We investigate how local environment at the nanoscale affects the behavior of reactive species and influences the mechanism, kinetics and selectivity of reactions. We apply this understanding to develop nanodevices that are useful in various fields such as catalysis, sensing, biomedical research or environmental chemistry.

Agriculture. Develop more robust and biocompatible photocatalytic materials, to be tested in the upgrading of biomass and the degradation of nitrates from agricultural runoff.