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BNL’s Chemistry Department

The two Brookhaven chemists — Morris Bullock and Vladimir Dioumaev — who developed the recyclable catalyst (see story) are just two of the 67 scientists now working in Brookhaven’s Chemistry Department. While some past and present Chemistry staff are members of the National Academy of Sciences or holders of the E.O. Lawrence Award or other honors, one Chemistry emeritus — Raymond Davis Jr. — earned the 2002 Nobel Prize in Physics, as well as a 2002 National Medal of Science, for pioneering contributions to astrophysics, in particular for the detection of solar neutrinos.

With an annual budget of $18 million provided predominantly by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science, today’s Chemistry Department has a new chairman — physical chemist Alex Harris. His goals for the Chemistry Department are to build additional cross-disciplinary collaborations, especially in materials science and condensed-matter science; continue the successful collaboration with the Laboratory’s Medical Department in brain imaging and addiction research; develop additional nanoscience initiatives in anticipation of the opening of the Center for Functional Nanomaterials at Brookhaven; and broaden the Department’s use of the National Synchrotron Light Source (see related story).

Experimental and theoretical Chemistry Department research at Brookhaven is divided into five areas:

Catalysis: the study of the structure and reactivity of compounds, such as transition-metal hydrides, that alter the rate of chemical reactions and, in the case of the newly developed recyclable catalyst, may be recovered essentially unaltered at a reaction’s end. The goal is to help in the development of clean, efficient fuels, as well as other new and useful chemical substances.

Gas-phase molecular dynamics: the investigation of the mechanisms involved in the chemical reactions of gases. Included are reactions produced by molecular collisions, as well as by photodissociation, which is the use of photons to break apart compounds. The aim is to understand combustion, which is used to produce 80 percent of the world’s energy.

Photo- and radiation-induced reactions: research into the efficient capture and storage of light energy. By studying transition-metal complexes and other systems in solution, the objective is to expand the understanding of electron-transfer reactions, excited states, solvent dynamics, and other chemical transformations. Furthering this understanding will help in the development of long-term storage methods for solar energy, which could then be used as a source of fuel.

Imaging & neuroscience: collaborative studies involve the development of tracers and the use of medical scanning technology, such as positron emission tomography and magnetic resonance imaging. The purpose is to gain new knowledge of normal physiology, drug action, and the diagnosis and treatment of aging and diseases such as AIDS, addiction, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, and multiple sclerosis.

Nuclear chemistry: building upon Ray Davis’s Nobel Prize-winning work, neutrino research is carried out at the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory in Canada. In addition, one of the four collaborations at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC; see related story) is based in Chemistry. PHOBOS, the collaboration’s detector, is searching for rare events arising from the collision of gold beams, with the goal of discovering quark-gluon plasma, thought to have last existed moments after the Big Bang.


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