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Self-assembly and crystallization of mesoporous catalytic materials

Self-assembly and crystallization of mesoporous catalytic materials

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BSB B138

The Chmelka group's research is motivated by the need to understand at a molecular level the fabrication and functions of new catalysts, adsorbents, optoelectronic materials, porous ceramics, heterogeneous polymers, and biominerals. These categories of technologically important materials are linked by their crucial dependencies on local order/disorder, which often governs macroscopic process or device performance.


Prof. Brad Chmelka
Department of Chemical Engineering
University of California, Santa Barbara

Self-assembly and crystallization from solutions or melts involve complicated thermodynamic, kinetic, and mass transport effects that are challenging to elucidate and control. Such processes are central to the syntheses and resulting properties of diverse inorganic, organic, or hybrid materials, including heterogeneous catalysts, the understanding of which is often elusive because of their non-equilibrium and multicomponent characters. The challenges are exacerbated by the absence of long-range atomic ordering, distributions of local environments, or complexity of surface interactions. Nevertheless, by combining spectroscopy, scattering, and macroscopic property analyses, the compositions and structures of partially crystalline materials can  be monitored and understood across multiple length scales, including disordered moieties. In particular, recent advancements in materials syntheses and solid-state NMR enable the atomic-level interactions, distributions, and roles of organic structure-directing or surface-modifying species to be measured and understood with respect to their influences on self-assembling or crystallizing solids and their properties. Recent results will be presented for mesostructured zeolites used in conversions of high-molecular-weight hydrocarbons and non-precious-metal mesoporous carbon electrocatalysts. The analyses provide insights and criteria to aid the rational design of heterogeneous materials with improved adsorption, reaction, and transport properties for diverse energy-related applications.