Spotlight: Materials Studies for Energy Applications
A number of IIT chemistry faculty members are engaged in materials research with an emphasis on materials for energy application, covering materials synthesis, characterization, evaluation, and computation and modeling.
For example, Chemistry Professor Ishaque Khan's group is seeking a molecular-level understanding of the fundamental structure/property relationships needed for the identification and rational synthesis of new and efficient materials for energy applications. They examine several interconnected critical components:
- Materials design and synthesis: to develop a capability of fine-tuning materials and to achieve the desired framework architecture, porosity, surface composition, functionalities, and active binding sites.
- Materials characterization: to develop fundamental relationships between a material's structure and its energy applications (low-temperature catalysis, room-temperature sensors, storage of energy).
- Materials evaluation: to investigate properties such as hydrogen storage capacity, sensor sensitivity and specificity, catalyst reactivity and selectivity, and stability.
- Simulation and modeling: to understand the interaction between probe/substrate molecules and the surface/ interfaces of materials.
Khan's research is focused on a new breed of nanostructured materials on which an integrated multidisciplinary approach to energy storage materials can be based. In particular, his group is creating novel zeolitic systems (adsorbents for water purification, catalysis, hydrogen storage materials, sensor and other uses) for tailor-making materials with controllable properties and functions.
They have recently prepared a series of nanostructured materials that include three-dimensional open-framework solids composed of arrays of the oxometalate molecular building blocks and novel inorganic-organic nanocomposites composed of oxometallic motifs and/or metal centers, cross-linked with robust rod-like organic ligands. These low-density porous framework materials contain well-defined channels and cavities similar to those found in conventional zeolites. They represent a new class of open-framework structure crystalline solids, whose structures are resolved at the atomic level. Besides their novel structural and topological features, these materials exhibit interesting and potentially useful sorptive, electronic, magnetic, catalytic, and chemical sensing properties. The fundamental knowledge base gained may lay the groundwork for producing the next generation of energy storage materials, energy-efficient catalysts, and room temperature sensors.