PhD Candidate Wins First Prize for Catalysis Research

Research will enhance molecular understanding of chemical reactions

5/29/2012

Tao Chen, a PhD candidate from the Chemical Engineering & Materials Science Department at Stevens Institute of Technology, has won the first prize and a cash award for his research presentation at the annual symposium of the Catalysis Society of Metropolitan New York. The symposium was held on March 14, 2012 at the ExxonMobil Corporate Research in Annandale, NJ and was attended by more than 130 participants. Students and postdoctoral researchers participated in a poster competition with 30 poster presentations from universities in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware.

Tao's winning presentation was entitled “Spectroscopic and computational study of BPE adsorption on Ag/SiO2 as a function of silver oxidation and adsorbate coverage.” He is co-advised in his research by Prof. Simon Podkolzin and Prof. Henry Du.

In this project, monodispersed silver nanoparticles with a diameter of about 50 nanometers supported on silica were synthesized using a colloidal solution. The extent of silver oxidation was varied with a time-controlled exposure to ozone and monitored with X-ray photoelectron spectroscopic measurements. Vibrational spectra were collected using surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy. Adsorption geometries and vibrational modes were analyzed with quantum chemical calculations using density functional theory. This closely integrated experimental and theoretical study for the first time identified at the molecular level the adsorption modes and energetics of an organic probe molecule trans-1,2-bis(4-pyridyl)ethylene (BPE) on silver nanoparticles. In addition, effects of the adsorbate coverage and the extent of silver oxidation were evaluated. This understanding will help scientists to choose optimal conditions for running chemical reactions with catalytic silver nanoparticles and also to improve sensors that use similar nanoparticles as spectroscopic detectors.

“This recognition from the Catalysis Society of Metropolitan New York demonstrates the substantive theoretical and experimental impact of this research,” says Dr. Michael Bruno, Dean of the Charles V. Schaefer, Jr. School of Engineering and Science. “We are delighted at Tao’s placing first in this competition and look forward to his continuing contributions to the field.”

“This research will improve our understanding of hydrocarbon reactions on silver catalysts and provide guidance for optimization of reaction conditions and catalyst formulations,” says Dr. Simon Podkolzin.

The presented research is related to Dr. Simon Podkolzin and Dr. Henry Du’s research on gold and silver catalytic nanoparticles for green chemistry and sustainability, for which theywere recently awarded a National Science Foundation grant.

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