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Physical Sciences Division
Research Highlights

April 2012

Catalysis Research Selected for Team Science

EMSL announces Team Science projects to accelerate discovery

EMSL NMR
Research at the IIC was selected as one of the three research efforts for EMSL's new classification of user proposals called Team Science projects. These projects will address major scientific challenges related to oil recovery, carbon sequestration, biofuels, and energy storage and production. Enlarge Image

Research at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory's Institute for Integrated Catalysis was selected as one of the three research efforts for EMSL's new classification of user proposals called Team Science Projects. These projects will address major scientific challenges related to oil recovery, carbon sequestration, biofuels, and energy storage and production.

"We recognize the heightened value that comes with a large team of scientists from multiple institutions working toward the same goal," said EMSL Director Allison Campbell. "At EMSL, we're proactively assembling these groups and identifying critical scientific opportunities we can tackle together."

The global research community has begun adopting a more collective approach to these critical scientific opportunities.

"We've seen early success of teams with our grand challenge. And we see the research landscape changing," Campbell said. "The younger generation of scientists wants to collaborate more closely and wants to make a quicker impact in their fields, social networking is encouraging a new level of interaction across the miles, and the challenges we as a global community face are immediate and serious.

"Team science at EMSL is our attempt to bring all those factors together to help accelerate impact."

Catalysis: New tools will enable studies in real-world environments to improve catalysts

Industry uses catalysts to more rapidly and efficiently carry out chemical reactions for energy production or storage, pollution mitigation, and vehicle emission management.  Fundamental studies of a catalyst's molecular structure, and its impact on chemical reactivity, are critical for designing more effective catalysts. The catalysis team is studying the reaction mechanisms and details for chemistry carried out by a class of catalysts called polyoxometalates, or POMs, supported on metal oxide surfaces.

POMs are a versatile catalyst that can be tuned to have different reaction properties as a function of chemical composition. The team is using an integrated approach combining experiments and computational modeling to unravel molecular-level details of important chemical reactions carried out using POMs.

Scientists in the IIC and University of California at Berkeley are building these POMs and will be analyzed in EMSL using NMR. POMs have been studied in depth using other spectroscopic techniques, but using NMR will provide improved molecular information related to the POM structure as well as the structures of catalytic intermediates.

The team has designed and are building a new probe for the 850-MHz NMR instrument that will enable experiments to be performed under normal operating conditions for the catalyst system. Researchers will obtain NMR results under a continuous flow of reactant gases into the system at the elevated temperatures, where these catalyst systems are optimized for chemical reactivity and output of desired chemical products.

Computational modeling will help analyze the experimental results by producing proposed models of the reactive structures, as well as the chemical shifts of species that will be probed with NMR. Then the team and their collaborators will verify the models against these new experimental studies.

The new continuous flow NMR probe for EMSL's 850-MHz NMR system will be available to the broader EMSL user community in FY13.


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