Materials science intersects with the fields of environmental science and sustainability in a variety of ways. This involves both developing new materials and conducting basic science research to understand processes governing the behavior of the materials. Specific research areas with emphasis in IMSE include: carbon dioxide capture and conversion (to metal carbonates and other products), treatment for removal of aqueous-phase contaminants, and the surface chemistry of environmental materials from natural and engineered systems.
Greenhouse gas capture and conversion
Researchers within IMSE focus on strategies for carbon dioxide (and other greenhouse gas) capture from flue gases or other sources, and the conversion of these gases to other solids or useful feedstock chemicals. Ongoing work includes:
- Advancing new materials for chemisorption and physisorption of these greenhouse gases (namely CO2 and methane, CH4)
- Investigation of the optimal conditions (temperature, pH, pressure) for conversion of CO2 to carbonates and monitoring the kinetics of these complex coupled reactions.
- Developing new analytical tools for the study of these systems, including NMR spectroscopy and MRI imaging.
- Catalytic conversion of CO2 to higher value products.
Treatment of aqueous-phase contaminants
IMSE researchers study materials that can be used for removal of aqueous contaminants in water and for in situ remediation of natural systems. Ongoing work investigates:
- Binding of water contaminants by iron and manganese oxide nanomaterials through surface adsorption and structural incorporation.
- Removal of contaminants from water supplies using in situ generation of iron oxide sorbents via electrocoagulation.
- Nanoparticle synthesis and stabilization for water treatment and environmental sensing applications.
- Materials that promote the nucleation of insoluble contaminant-bearing solids.
Surface chemistry of environmental materials
IMSE researchers study the fundamental surface chemistry of environmental materials. Ongoing work investigates:
- Molecular-scale ordering of water near the surfaces of environmental materials.
- Proton and ligand exchange processes at solid-water interfaces.
- Electron transfer process on the surfaces of natural semiconducting materials.