Fundamental is a foundation of fun. Our research uses spectroscopic tools as a foundation to aid in understanding catalytic systems, designing advanced materials, and optimizing transformation technologies.
Catalytic strategy for a circular economy
Our goal is to develop chemical processes for transforming waste to solve environmental problems and enhance sustainability. To realize this goal, we rely on my expertise in catalysis, materials science, synthetic chemistry, and quantum chemistry.
Currently, we are using our understanding of plant polymer depolymerization to
(1) produce phenolics and platform chemicals from plant biomass,
(2) create electrolytes and separators in batteries (lithium and lithium-selenium batteries), and
(3) depolymerize synthetic polymers (discarded plastics).
First, we applied my plant polymer structure and catalysis knowledge to synthesize biomass-derived chemicals. For example, we released hydrogen from lignin on-demand to depolymerize lignin into phenolics. Second, we used biomass-derived chemicals to create non-flammable electrolytes in lithium-metal batteries. Flammability is a major concern for batteries, and our work will make safer batteries for electric vehicles. Third, we leveraged our understanding of natural polymers to transform hard-to-break plastics into commodity chemicals.
Overall, our research program is a paradigm for designing sustainable chemicals and materials to serve a more comprehensive host of societal needs with reduced environmental impact. Hence, our research lab is titled "Advanced Renewable Materials" or ARM for short.