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

Oxford Instruments announces Dr Kate Ross as winner of the 2018 Lee Osheroff Richardson Science Prize for North and South America February 20th, 2018

Computers aid discovery of new, inexpensive material to make LEDs with high color quality February 20th, 2018

Unconventional superconductor may be used to create quantum computers of the future: They have probably succeeded in creating a topological superconductor February 19th, 2018

Photonic chip guides single photons, even when there are bends in the road February 16th, 2018

Govt.-Legislation/Regulation/Funding/Policy

Computers aid discovery of new, inexpensive material to make LEDs with high color quality February 20th, 2018

Arrowhead Receives Regulatory Clearance to Begin Phase 1/2 Study of ARO-HBV for Treatment of Hepatitis B February 15th, 2018

Arrowhead Pharmaceuticals Receives Orphan Drug Designation for ARO-AAT February 15th, 2018

Rutgers-Led Innovation Could Spur Faster, Cheaper, Nano-Based Manufacturing: Scalable and cost-effective manufacturing of thin film devices February 14th, 2018

Materials/Metamaterials

Rutgers-Led Innovation Could Spur Faster, Cheaper, Nano-Based Manufacturing: Scalable and cost-effective manufacturing of thin film devices February 14th, 2018

Graphene on toast, anyone? Rice University scientists create patterned graphene onto food, paper, cloth, cardboard February 13th, 2018

Atomic Flaws Create Surprising, High-Efficiency UV LED Materials: Subtle surface defects increase UV light emission in greener, more cost-effective LED and catalyst materials February 8th, 2018

A new radiation detector made from graphene: A new bolometer exploits the thermoelectric properties of graphene February 6th, 2018

Announcements

Oxford Instruments announces Dr Kate Ross as winner of the 2018 Lee Osheroff Richardson Science Prize for North and South America February 20th, 2018

Computers aid discovery of new, inexpensive material to make LEDs with high color quality February 20th, 2018

Unconventional superconductor may be used to create quantum computers of the future: They have probably succeeded in creating a topological superconductor February 19th, 2018

Photonic chip guides single photons, even when there are bends in the road February 16th, 2018

Environment

Ultra-efficient removal of carbon monoxide using gold nanoparticles on a molecular support: New method and mechanism for state-of-the-art gas purification February 9th, 2018

New filters could enable manufacturers to perform highly-selective chemical separation January 23rd, 2018

Rice U.'s one-step catalyst turns nitrates into water and air: NSF-funded NEWT Center aims for catalytic converter for nitrate-polluted water January 5th, 2018

'Quantum material' has shark-like ability to detect small electrical signals December 20th, 2017

Energy

Round-the-clock power from smart bowties February 5th, 2018

Silk fibers could be high-tech ‘natural metamaterials’ January 31st, 2018

A simple new approach to plastic solar cells: Osaka University researchers intelligently design new highly efficient organic solar cells based on amorphous electronic materials with potential for easy printing January 28th, 2018

Nature paper by Schlumberger researchers used photothermal based nanoscale IR spectroscopy to analyze heterogeneous process of petroleum generation January 23rd, 2018

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

Oxford Instruments announces Dr Kate Ross as winner of the 2018 Lee Osheroff Richardson Science Prize for North and South America February 20th, 2018

Computers aid discovery of new, inexpensive material to make LEDs with high color quality February 20th, 2018

Rutgers-Led Innovation Could Spur Faster, Cheaper, Nano-Based Manufacturing: Scalable and cost-effective manufacturing of thin film devices February 14th, 2018

Joseph N. Pelton named 2017 Lifeboat Foundation Guardian Award Winner February 1st, 2018

Photonics/Optics/Lasers

Photonic chip guides single photons, even when there are bends in the road February 16th, 2018

Rutgers-Led Innovation Could Spur Faster, Cheaper, Nano-Based Manufacturing: Scalable and cost-effective manufacturing of thin film devices February 14th, 2018

Understanding brain functions using upconversion nanoparticles: Researchers can now send light deep into the brain to study neural activities February 14th, 2018

Graphene on toast, anyone? Rice University scientists create patterned graphene onto food, paper, cloth, cardboard February 13th, 2018

Solar/Photovoltaic

A simple new approach to plastic solar cells: Osaka University researchers intelligently design new highly efficient organic solar cells based on amorphous electronic materials with potential for easy printing January 28th, 2018

Tweaking quantum dots powers-up double-pane solar windows: Engineered quantum dots could bring down the cost of solar electricity January 2nd, 2018

Record high photoconductivity for new metal-organic framework material December 15th, 2017

Inorganic-organic halide perovskites for new photovoltaic technology November 6th, 2017

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



  Premium Products
NanoNews-Custom
Only the news you want to read!
 Learn More
NanoStrategies
Full-service, expert consulting
 Learn More











ASP
Nanotechnology Now Featured Books




NNN

The Hunger Project