Catalysis of Sustainable Processes

Summary

Available projects involve the development of novel catalysts for the generation of hydrogen by splitting water with sunlight, for biomass conversion, for green industrial oxidations, for the hydrogen evolution reaction and for cascade reactions involving nanoencapsulation.  We also offer projects in the synthesis of novel mesoporous materials, in the development of improved batteries and in nanotherapeutics.

Supervisor(s)

Associate Professor Tony Masters

Research Location

School of Chemistry

Program Type

Masters/PHD

Synopsis

As exemplars, three current research areas in our group are the development of catalysts for the hydrogen evolution reaction, nanotherapeutics and energy storage via improved batteries.

Hydrogen is perhaps one of the earth’s oldest energy sources, providing the energy for some of the first microorganisms associated with the evolution of life.  Today, the catalytic hydrogenations of fossil feedstocks, of nitrogen, and of commodity and fine chemicals (including asymmetric hydrogenations) are the highest volume industrial processes.  In future, in addition to these chemical applications, hydrogen is again expected to provide energy for humankind on a large scale.  Presently, the H2/H+ interconversions and industrial hydrogenations are commonly catalysed by expensive metals, possibly unsuitable for large-scale (particularly distributed) use in the provision of energy.  By contrast, the hydrogenase enzymes operate more efficiently using iron and nickel at their active sites.  This project is targeted at the syntheses of functional models of bioinspired catalysts, able to interconvert H2 and protons.

Our research on nanotherapeutics combiningseveral features in one nanoparticle: fluorescent imaging, MRI contrast enhancement, disease targeting via antibodies and selective drug delivery and release by photolytic cleavage.  This programme endeavours to assemble iron-based nanoparticles coated with various fuctionalities to generate disease-specific activity.   In this project both inorganic and organic syntheses are demanded and in combination with Prof. Christopherson in Biochemistry cell cultures and antibody techniques will be used as well as various imaging and spectroscopic techniques. 

We seek a step change in energy storage with tailored mesoporous materials.  Renewable sources of energy are of particular interest in the era of diminishing fossil fuels. Efficient energy storage is a missing link for renewable energy. We aim to redesign existing battery systems by introducing a combination of mesoporous materials and ionic liquids to improve power density by 300-400%. The work involves organic and inorganic synthesis, and characterization in collaboration with Prof. Vassallo in Chemical Engineering.

Additional Information

These projects involve inorganic and inorganic synthesis, and the use of a wide range of spectroscopic, physical and analytical methods, including gas chromatorgraphy (GC), GC/mass spectroscopy(MS), high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC), HPLC/MS, surface analysis, microwave synthesis, ICP, electron and confocal microscopy, X-ray diffraction, extended X-ray absorption fine-structure, electronic, vibrational, NMR and EPR spectroscopies, electrospray mass spectrometry. 

The projects described are funded (chemicals, consumables, equipment, services) through Australian National Competitive grant funding and industry support.  Australian candidates are expected to be covered by an Australian Postgraduate Award or similar scholarship. There is no direct funding for fees/salary of potential international students, but assistance may be given to good candidates (ideally with a research publication record) who are granted scholarships to study at the University.

For funding information on ARC-funded and University-funded scholarships see http://www.chem.usyd.edu.au

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Keywords

catalysis, organometallic chemistry, coordination chemistry, sustainability, mesoporous solids, nanotherapeutics, hydrogen evolution reaction, photocatalysis, Hydrogenation, isomerization, oligomerisation, polymerization, battery, electrochemistry (Separate with commas, not semicolons. It is vital you include all possible keywords and combinations, otherwise the search engine will not be able to identify your opportunity).

Opportunity ID

The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is: 1492