Improving resource use in carbon nanotube synthesis

Current synthetic approaches for carbon nanotube (CNT) synthesis are energy and reactant consumptive, with mass conversion efficiencies between 0.01-10%! Furthermore, the catalytic chemical vapor deposition (CVD) used to produce some CNTs can result in the unintended release of several chemicals of environmental concern (such as toxic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, smog-forming volatile organic compounds, and soot-like materials that reduce the CNT product quality). We aim to use a mechanistic chemical understanding to reduce the formation of these unwanted materials, reduce the energetic costs of the synthesis, and improve the quality of the CNT material.

Novel techniques for detecting nanomaterials in the environment

To understand the fate of novel materials in the environment (and to gauge biological exposure to those novel chemicals), we must have accurate and sensitive detection methods. We seek to develop low-cost, high-throughput analytical techniques for the quantification of nanomaterials (NMs) in complex environmental matrices (e.g., air, water, and sediment). These may rely on unique physical or chemical characteristics associated with the NMs, such as their metal or isotopic content, shape, thermal stability, or unique mass fragmentation or pyrolysis patterns.

Photochemical transformations of nanomaterials in natural systems

Chemicals and materials released to the environment can be transformed via physical interactions and chemical reactions with matter (both living and non-living) and energy present in the natural world. These transformations will influence their transport in the environment and ultimate partitioning between the air, water, soils, sediments, and organisms. The sunlight is a powerful reactant in both atmospheric and aquatic systems, and we aim to determine (1) the rate of phototransformation of nanomaterials (NMs), (2) the mechanism of chemical modification, and (3) the impact of those transformations on NM lifetime in the environment.

Energy and water resources: Searching for synergy in natural gas extraction

Current natural gas extraction technologies suffer from inefficient methane recovery and unknown influences on nearby groundwater aquifers and the water supply as a whole. We seek to investigate the subsurface transport of chemicals used during natural gas extraction and use that information to design use, treatment, or filtration approaches that protect human and ecological health. Furthermore, materials and processes will be evaluated to enhance recovery of natural gas and reduce fugitive losses of natural gas.

Materials for carbon sequestration

Greenhouse gasses are released to the atmosphere through both natural and anthropogenic processes. The former represent a source of carbon that is poorly quantified, but known to play a significant role in the atmospheric heat budget. Furthermore, these gasses have proven difficult to capture or sequester. We seek to utilize advances in material chemistry to remove carbon from the rapidly cycling atmospheric pool to a slowly cycling, more recalcitrant reservoir of carbon that could be stored or reused for carbon-neutral energy generation.