One of the group's undergraduate students, Audrey Wang, has won an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship! The NSF GRFP is known as the gold-standard for STEM fellowships in the US, and Audrey believes that winning the award reflects highly not only on her own work and potential but also on the research and knowledge of the laboratories in which she has 'grown up' (the CCIC and the Yao Research Group). Audrey has decided to decline the award in order to explore different fields within ABB, a company that works in the robotics, industrial automation, power transmission and distribution, and sustainable technology spaces.
Audrey Wang (the 2nd from the right in the front row), an undergraduate student working in collaboration between the Yao Research Group and the UH CCIC Group, presented her Senior Honors Thesis research at the 56th Texas Center for Superconductivity at the University of Houston Student Symposium. Audrey won third prize for her presentation "An Ab Initio Investigation of Structure-Function Relationships in Solid-State Electrolytes," an unusual achievement for an undergraduate student.
We continue to provide theoretical support and guide experimental catalyst design efforts to the team lead by Prof. Mike Harold with a new DOE NETL grant worth $2.1M. UH is joined by Prof. Bill Epling from the University of Virginia (UVA), Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) and engineers from Fiat-Chrysler Automobiles Inc. and Johnson Matthey Inc. For more details on our research goals and possible impact on the future personal transportation please read the UH News Release or this article in The Daily Cougar.
Having been a PhD student in the group of Prof. Manos Mavrikakis at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, Prof. Lars Grabow had an early exposure to monolayer catalysts, or near surface alloys. At the time theory was able to make exciting predictions regarding the catalytic properties of these hypothetical materials, but only a hand-full of experimentalists accepted the challenge to actually make such well-defined structures. One such pioneer was Dr. Radoslav Adzic at Brookhaven National Laboratory and his former postdoctoral researcher, now Associate Professor, Stanko Brankovic. Since then, numerous monolayer catalysts with exceptional activity have been discovered, and their properties can generally be captured as a combination of electronic (or ligand) effects and the epitaxial strain imposed by the host material on the overlayer metal. Years later, Stanko and Lars joined forces to yet discover another crucial aspect relating to monolayer catalysts. In practice, monolayer materials are not perfect. These imperfections lead to an additional strain along the perimeter of 2-D overlayer islands. This additional strain can have a significant effect and explains experimental observations that are in contrast to the established theory. For more details, please read our recently published communication in JACS or the UH College of Engineering news article.
In collaboration with researchers at Rice University and the group of Prof. Bao at the UH, graduate student Hari Thirumalai has provided a theoretical explanation why a triple-layer FeMnP catalyst works well for hydrogen evolution during water splitting. In fact, experiments done by Dr. Zhenhuan Zhao demonstrate that the same material also works for the oxygen evolution reaction. Thus, this new, cheap and scalable material could be used as anode and cathode for electrocatalytic water splitting and efficient hydrogen production. Read the full article or check out the story published on Eurekalert.
For his work on "Balancing the Site Requirements for Hydrodeoxygenation of Bio-oil over Mixed Molybdenum Oxy-carbide Phases", Sashank Kasiraju received the prestigious Richard J. Kokes Award from the North American Catalysis Society. This award supported his travel to the 25th North American Meeting in Denver, CO, where he and the other winners enjoyed exclusive access to and meetings with leading researchers in the field of catalysis. Sashank's project is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy and aims to improve catalysts for the upgrade of biomass to fuels by learning from similar processes, i.e., hydrodesulfurization, for which large-scale industrial processes already exist. Read more about Sashank and the other two award winners from our department (Wendy Lang and Wei Qin) in the College of Engineering News.
Alongside Sashank, our group had a strong representation at NAM25 with additional oral presentations given by Dr. Shengguang Wang, Dr. Juan Manuel Arce Ramos, Yuying Song, and two posters by Hari Thirumalai.