Personick Awarded Grant from American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund

Michelle Personick joined the faculty this fall, and is teaching courses in Chemistry of Materials and Nanomaterials and an Integrated Chemistry Lab. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

During the fall 2017 semester, Michelle Personick will teach Nanomaterials Lab and a chemistry symposia.

Michelle Personick, assistant professor of chemistry, received a two-year doctoral new investigator grant from the American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund (ACS PRF) to synthesize and test new metal nanomaterials designed to make industrial chemical processes more energy efficient. Her study, titled “Tailored Bimetallic Catalysts with Highly Stepped Facets for Selective and Energy-Efficient Epoxidation and Hydrogenation Reactions,” will be supported for two years with a $110,000 award.

“Global energy consumption is steadily increasing, and the chemical industry is the second largest consumer of delivered energy,” Personick said. “The chemical industry is unique in that it uses energy resources, such as petroleum and natural gas, both as fuels to heat reactors and as starting precursors or ‘feedstocks’ for the production of chemicals and materials.”

As demand for products of the chemical industry—such as pharmaceuticals, plastics, and specialty chemicals—increases, the consumption of energy in this sector increases dramatically. Most industrial chemical processes rely on a catalyst—a substance that increases the rate of a chemical reaction but is not used up in the reaction.

The goal of the funded research is to understand how tuning the shape and composition of metal nanoparticles changes their performance as catalysts in industrially important chemical transformations. The long-term objective is to apply this fundamental understanding to the design of nanoscale catalysts which make industrial chemical reactions more energy efficient and sustainable by (1) enabling the reactions to take place at lower temperatures and/or (2) eliminating the production of unwanted byproducts, such as carbon dioxide.