Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors

Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button

Home > Press > Rice's Thomann wins CAREER grant to study photocatalysis: Rice lab's unique spectrometer will shed light on solar-powered CO2 reduction

 Isabell Thomann
CREDIT: Jeff Fitlow/Rice University
Isabell Thomann

CREDIT: Jeff Fitlow/Rice University

Abstract:
It's difficult to define Rice University scientist Isabell Thomann, whose research encompasses chemistry, optics, electrical engineering, energy and the environment -- just to name a few. But thanks to a prestigious CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Thomann's got the chance to focus her energies on a five-year quest to explore ways of using sunlight to reduce the carbon footprint of power plants.

Rice's Thomann wins CAREER grant to study photocatalysis: Rice lab's unique spectrometer will shed light on solar-powered CO2 reduction

Houston, TX | Posted on June 19th, 2014

"We are interested in improving photocatalysis, a class of processes in which we use light to drive chemical reactions," Thomann said. "This grant will focus on the reduction of carbon dioxide using sunlight, but the methods that we study in our lab can be broadly applied across many disciplines."

CAREER Awards are among the NSF's most competitive. Only about 400 are given each year across all disciplines. The awards, which include $400,000 in research funding, are given to "junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organizations," according to the NSF.

Thomann holds joint appointments in Rice's departments of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Chemistry, and Materials Science and NanoEngineering. One facet of her work focuses on designing and testing photocatalytic nanomaterials -- tiny bits of matter that interact with light to foster chemical reactions.

"Typically in a chemical reaction, you have a reactant, or chemical input A, that is used to produce a chemical product B," Thomann said. "It's rare that a reaction goes directly from A to B. Often there are a number of short-lived, intermediate chemicals that are produced in between. We would like to better understand what these short-lived intermediates are so we can better control the output of the chemical reactions."

One reason intermediate chemicals are often overlooked and poorly studied is that they exist for a short time -- sometimes just a fraction of a second -- before they are consumed by a subsequent reaction.

"Probing these is a real challenge because of the fast timescales involved," Thomann said. "We are developing an ultrafast laser spectroscopy system that, in essence, allows us to take a movie of the short-lived chemical intermediates as they come and go."

The spectrograph can read the optical signatures of molecules. These act like fingerprints that her team can use to determine exactly which intermediates are present and in what concentration at any point throughout the reaction. By running repeated tests under a variety of reaction conditions, Thomann's team hopes to learn how to optimize the efficiency and selectivity of chemical reactions.

"We are building this tunable laser source with lots of different colors because not every reaction is alike," Thomann said. "With this tunable laser system, we can shine light of any color to study different chemicals."

In the case of carbon dioxide, the research could allow chemical engineers to optimize solar-powered CO2 conversion systems for a variety of different parameters.

"Every application is a bit different, and this is the kind of knowledge engineers need to meet a specific challenge," she said. "In one case, the limiting factor might be the upfront cost of building the system. In another instance, the engineer might be more interested in optimizing output. In each case, it is important to understand exactly how the reaction takes place."

Thomann said energy and green chemistry are but two of the research themes in her lab.

"We are definitely interested in materials for energy applications, particularly for those involving solar photocatalysis," Thomann said. "But energy is just one of the big challenges of our day. There are also other challenges in sensing and in health. Over time, we aim to be part of solving or helping to solve other grand challenges through the use of nanophotonics."

####

About Rice University
Located on a 300-acre forested campus in Houston, Rice University is consistently ranked among the nation's top 20 universities by U.S. News & World Report. Rice has highly respected schools of Architecture, Business, Continuing Studies, Engineering, Humanities, Music, Natural Sciences and Social Sciences and is home to the Baker Institute for Public Policy. With 3,920 undergraduates and 2,567 graduate students, Rice's undergraduate student-to-faculty ratio is 6.3-to-1. Its residential college system builds close-knit communities and lifelong friendships, just one reason why Rice has been ranked No. 1 for best quality of life multiple times by the Princeton Review and No. 2 for "best value" among private universities by Kiplinger's Personal Finance.

Follow Rice News and Media Relations on Twitter @RiceUNews.

For more information, please click here

Contacts:
David Ruth
713-348-6327


Jade Boyd
713-348-6778

Copyright © Rice University

If you have a comment, please Contact us.

Issuers of news releases, not 7th Wave, Inc. or Nanotechnology Now, are solely responsible for the accuracy of the content.

Bookmark:
Delicious Digg Newsvine Google Yahoo Reddit Magnoliacom Furl Facebook

Related Links

A copy of the NSF grant abstract is available here:

Related News Press

News and information

Tiny nanoclusters could solve big problems for lithium-ion batteries February 21st, 2017

Strem Chemicals and Dotz Nano Ltd. Sign Distribution Agreement for Graphene Quantum Dots Collaboration February 21st, 2017

Nominations Invited for $250,000 Kabiller Prize in Nanoscience: Major international prize recognizes a visionary nanotechnology researcher February 20th, 2017

Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms: In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport February 20th, 2017

Govt.-Legislation/Regulation/Funding/Policy

'Lossless' metamaterial could boost efficiency of lasers and other light-based devices February 20th, 2017

Engineers shrink microscope to dime-sized device February 17th, 2017

Francis Alexander Named Deputy Director of Brookhaven Lab's Computational Science Initiative February 16th, 2017

Good vibrations help reveal molecular details: Rice University scientists combine disciplines to pinpoint small structures in unlabeled molecules February 15th, 2017

Materials/Metamaterials

Tiny nanoclusters could solve big problems for lithium-ion batteries February 21st, 2017

Oxford Instruments announces Dr Brad Ramshaw of Cornell University, as winner of the 2017 Lee Osheroff Richardson Science Prize February 20th, 2017

'Lossless' metamaterial could boost efficiency of lasers and other light-based devices February 20th, 2017

Metamaterial: Mail armor inspires physicists: KIT researchers reverse hall coefficient -- medieval mail armor inspired development of metamaterial with novel properties February 15th, 2017

Announcements

Tiny nanoclusters could solve big problems for lithium-ion batteries February 21st, 2017

Strem Chemicals and Dotz Nano Ltd. Sign Distribution Agreement for Graphene Quantum Dots Collaboration February 21st, 2017

Oxford Instruments announces Dr Brad Ramshaw of Cornell University, as winner of the 2017 Lee Osheroff Richardson Science Prize February 20th, 2017

Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms: In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport February 20th, 2017

Environment

Meta-lenses bring benchtop performance to small, hand-held spectrometer: Game-changing nanostructure-based lenses allow smaller devices, increased functionality February 9th, 2017

NIST updates 'sweet' 1950s separation method to clean nanoparticles from organisms January 27th, 2017

Investigating the impact of natural and manmade nanomaterials on living things: Center for Environmental Implications of Nanotechnology develops tools to assess current and future risk January 9th, 2017

PCATDES Starts Field Testing of Photocatalytic Reactors in South East Asia December 28th, 2016

Energy

Strem Chemicals and Dotz Nano Ltd. Sign Distribution Agreement for Graphene Quantum Dots Collaboration February 21st, 2017

'Lossless' metamaterial could boost efficiency of lasers and other light-based devices February 20th, 2017

In-cell molecular sieve from protein crystal February 14th, 2017

NREL research pinpoints promise of polycrystalline perovskites February 8th, 2017

Grants/Sponsored Research/Awards/Scholarships/Gifts/Contests/Honors/Records

Oxford Instruments announces Dr Brad Ramshaw of Cornell University, as winner of the 2017 Lee Osheroff Richardson Science Prize February 20th, 2017

Nominations Invited for $250,000 Kabiller Prize in Nanoscience: Major international prize recognizes a visionary nanotechnology researcher February 20th, 2017

'Lossless' metamaterial could boost efficiency of lasers and other light-based devices February 20th, 2017

Good vibrations help reveal molecular details: Rice University scientists combine disciplines to pinpoint small structures in unlabeled molecules February 15th, 2017

Photonics/Optics/Lasers

'Lossless' metamaterial could boost efficiency of lasers and other light-based devices February 20th, 2017

Liquid metal nano printing set to revolutionize electronics: Creating integrated circuits just atoms thick February 18th, 2017

Research opens door to smaller, cheaper, more agile communications tech February 16th, 2017

1,000 times more efficient nano-LED opens door to faster microchips February 5th, 2017

Solar/Photovoltaic

Strem Chemicals and Dotz Nano Ltd. Sign Distribution Agreement for Graphene Quantum Dots Collaboration February 21st, 2017

'Lossless' metamaterial could boost efficiency of lasers and other light-based devices February 20th, 2017

Material can turn sunlight, heat and movement into electricity -- all at once: Extracting energy from multiple sources could help power wearable technology February 9th, 2017

NREL research pinpoints promise of polycrystalline perovskites February 8th, 2017

NanoNews-Digest
The latest news from around the world, FREE



  Premium Products
NanoNews-Custom
Only the news you want to read!
 Learn More
NanoTech-Transfer
University Technology Transfer & Patents
 Learn More
NanoStrategies
Full-service, expert consulting
 Learn More











ASP
Nanotechnology Now Featured Books




NNN

The Hunger Project