Materials and Interfaces for Catalysis

Advanced materials and interfaces (including surfaces, thin films, and membranes) are a key to developing the next generation of catalysts, separation processes, gas and liquid storage technologies, and environmental remediation methods. These materials and technologies are at the heart of industrial processes that generate several trillions of dollars per year of fuels, chemicals, polymers, industrial materials, and purified water.

However, these processes use large amounts of energy (about 15-20% of the world’s total consumption) and are increasingly challenged by their environmental footprint and the growing scarcity of fossil-based raw materials such as petroleum. An overarching grand challenge is the need for a new generation of advanced materials and interfaces for a host of sustainable chemical processes that provide renewable (or cleaner) fuels and industrial chemicals, inexpensive purified water, and clean air with low levels of greenhouse gases and pollutants.

Georgia Tech is a leader in this area, with a large and highly collaborative effort in cutting-edge fundamental and applied research to discover and develop polymeric, inorganic, and metal-organic materials, and devices based upon these materials, to impact ‘grand challenge’ problems. These include inexpensive CO2 capture, energy-efficient and high-performance catalysis and separations in the chemical sector, biofuel and biorenewable chemical production, efficient water purification and wastewater treatment, and processing of fuels and chemicals in harsh/toxic environments.

The DOE recently awarded a four-year $11.2 million grant to Georgia Tech to lead an EFRC that studies materials degradation caused by acid gases. Directed by Krista Walton, an Associate Professor in ChBE, the new center involves research teams from six universities and a government laboratory. Collaborating with Georgia Tech are researchers from Lehigh University, University of Alabama, University of Florida, University of Wisconsin, Washington University in St. Louis, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Named the Center for Understanding and Control of Acid Gas-Induced Evolution of Materials for Energy (UNCAGE-ME), the Georgia Tech-led effort is one of 10 new EFRCs recently funded by the DOE.

Core capabilities include a comprehensive infrastructure for synthesis, structural and functional characterization, computational analysis, and application development for a large diversity of materials classes. These capabilities are sustained by strong industrial and federal research support.