Seed funding creates future NSF success.  That is certainly the case with Professor Lawrence Hill at Western Kentucky University. 

Summary of project goals


This award provided seed funding to purchase an automated screening system for nanoparticle catalysts, chemicals and supplies to synthesize these catalysts, and wages for one student researcher to conduct these experiments. The expected outcome of this project was a full proposal to the National Science Foundation.


Summary of activities


One undergraduate student researcher synthesized functional solvents (ionic liquids) that were designed to be useful for nanoparticle synthesis and then used these ionic liquids to control the growth of platinum/cobalt alloyed nanoparticles. An HEL digiCAT automated catalyst screening system was purchased and installed, and these ionic liquids and nanoparticles with controlled shapes will be used to study the effect of structural parameters on catalysis (hydrogenation of carbon dioxide). Preliminary data from this student’s research was included to support a full proposal to the National Science Foundation CAREER program (submitted in July 2021).


Findings and dissemination


The ionic liquids were found to play an important role in the formation of nanoparticles with sharp edges and facets that are useful for catalysis. Optimization of the synthesis is in progress, which will be followed by synthesis of a series of different catalysts. Findings correlating nanoparticle shape with catalytic performance will be published one preliminary studies are completed.


Broader impacts


This award provided seed funding to start a new research area related to nanoparticle synthesis and catalytic hydrogenation of carbon dioxide. Hydrogenation of carbon dioxide is a potential route to convert wasted CO2 into more valuable chemicals, and catalysts are used to decrease the energy required for the reaction to occur. More efficient reactions with carbon dioxide can potentially be used to mitigate the environmental impacts of fossil fuel power plants. This award also helped build new synthetic and characterization capabilities at WKU, and one undergraduate student researcher gained hands-on experience in materials synthesis.