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Research Abstracts Online
January - December 2011

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University of Minnesota Twin Cities
College of Science and Engineering
Department of Chemistry

PI: Connie C. Lu

Molecular Metal Machinery: Converting CO2 Back to Fuels

The Lu lab creates new catalysts with one or two metals at the epicenter. Metals are powerful tools for catalysis because they shuttle electrons between molecules, and thereby, transform them. Traditionally, metal catalysts operate via net changes of one-to-two electrons. However, to transform carbon dioxide into methanol requires a net gain of six electrons and six protons with loss of water: CO2 + 6 H+ + 6 e → CH3OH + H2O. In catalysis, the basic knowledge of transferring multiple electrons and protons is limited, and this fundamental gap must be bridged to develop new, more effective catalysts. This knowledge would be widely applicable to the transformations of other small molecules, e.g. dinitrogen and nitric oxide. Besides using these small molecules as building blocks for chemical synthesis, technologies that effectively remove greenhouse gases (e.g. carbon dioxide) and toxic air pollutants (e.g. nitric oxide) from the atmosphere are inherently useful. Computing resources at MSI allow these researchers to calculate the electronic properties of the metal site(s). This is important as the reactivity of the metal site(s) is often accompanied by changes in electronic structure. Understanding the electronics of the metal site(s) is key to predicting the reactivity of a particular catalyst.

Group Members

Keying Ding, Research Associate
Elodie E. Marlier, Graduate Student
Deanna Miller, Graduate Student
Paul Alex Rudd, Graduate Student
Stephen J. Tereniak, Graduate Student
Christopher Zall, Graduate Student