Two UT Arlington scientists working on innovative energy supply solutions are included in the first round of grants for a new National Science Foundation program aimed at promoting environmental sustainability.
Fred MacDonnell, a chemistry professor, and Qiming Zhang, a physics professor, were among the 101 scientists and engineers sharing in $49 million in inaugural grant awards for the Sustainable Chemistry, Engineering and Materials, or SusChEM
, program. The NSF started SusChEM in 2012 to “support the discovery of new science and engineering that will provide humanity with a safe, stable and sustainable supply of chemicals and materials sufficient to meet future global demand,” according to the agency.
MacDonnell, along with recently retired UT Arlington research associate professor Norma Tacconi, was awarded a three year, $430,346 grant to study a new method for converting carbon dioxide to methanol. Zhang was awarded a three-year, $188,548 grant to study the use of sulfurized hematite to build more efficient solar cell technologies.
“We’re proud to have Drs. MacDonnell, Tacconi and Zhang recognized as part of this distinguished group of scientists who are using their work to address challenges that affect society as a whole,” said Pamela Jansma, dean of the College of Science. “Their projects also include important components of outreach that will expose future science, technology and engineering students to research and scientific exploration.”
MacDonnell and Tacconi are exploring photosensitive metal compounds as solar-energy collectors and catalysts for the conversion of carbon dioxide, a harmful greenhouse gas, to methanol, a valuable fuel source. Recent studies in their lab have shown that the process works, however the efficiency is still low and needs to be improved. The grant will allow them to pursue new photocatalyst designs and explore a wider variety of conditions in order to improve yields and photochemical efficiency.
“If we could efficiently convert CO2 to methanol using solar power, we could develop a carbon-neutral fuel cycle and produce a liquid fuel that