Sustainability through Chemistry

Sustainability through ChemistryAn urgent challenge faced by the world is to find viable solutions to meet our energy needs while maintaining the quality of our environment. The discovery of new materials with improved properties will play a pivotal role in achieving a sustainable future. In Professor Gonghu Li’s group at the University of New Hampshire, students are interested in utilizing the principles of catalysis and nanoscience to develop sustainable, functional nanocomposite materials for energy and environmental applications.

Surface molecular catalysis deals with the post-synthetic derivatization of solid materials with well-defined molecular catalysts. Such “supramolecular chemistry” represents a unique approach that brings together the robustness of solid surfaces and the molecular understanding of catalysis. Crystalline aluminosilicates such as zeolites are excellent supports for molecular catalysts. Professor Li’s current research involves the synthesis of nanozeolites with particle sizes less than 100 nm, followed by surface functionalization of nanozeolites with molecular catalysts. The functionalized materials will be characterized with a variety of techniques including X -ray diffraction, microscopy (SEM and TEM), UV-visible, FT-IR, and EPR spectroscopy.
One potential application for Professor Li’s functional nanocomposite materials is in the field of artificial photosynthesis (Scheme 1). Solar energy remains the largest unexploited renewable energy resource. In his research, transition metal (Ru, Re, Ni, Co, etc.) complexes will be synthesized and supported on nanozeolites. The surface molecular catalysts will be applied to solar fuel production by reducing CO2 into CH4 and CH3OH as energy-rich fuels. Other applications of functional materials include dye-sensitized solar cells and photochromism.

Surface molecular catalysis deals with the post-synthetic derivatization of solid materials with well-defined molecular catalysts. Such “supramolecular chemistry” represents a unique approach that brings together the robustness of solid surfaces and the molecular understanding of catalysis. Crystalline aluminosilicates such as zeolites are excellent supports for molecular catalysts. Professor Li’s current research involves the synthesis of nanozeolites with particle sizes less than 100 nm, followed by surface functionalization of nanozeolites with molecular catalysts. The functionalized materials will be characterized with a variety of techniques including X -ray diffraction, microscopy (SEM and TEM), UV-visible, FT-IR, and EPR spectroscopy.


One potential application for Professor Li’s functional nanocomposite materials is in the field of artificial photosynthesis (Scheme 1). Solar energy remains the largest unexploited renewable energy resource. In his research, transition metal (Ru, Re, Ni, Co, etc.) complexes will be synthesized and supported on nanozeolites. The surface molecular catalysts will be applied to solar fuel production by reducing CO2 into CH4 and CH3OH as energy-rich fuels. Other applications of functional materials include dye-sensitized solar cells and photochromism.