Chemistry Division Overview:

While the subjects of chemical research in the Chemistry Division are diverse, several predominant themes span traditional research fields and research groups. These themes include: artificial photosynthesis, charge transfer for energy conversion, chemistry with ionizing radiation, catalysis and surface science, nanoscience, combustion, and nuclear chemistry.

Artificial Photosynthesis
This program addresses major issues hindering progress in photoinduced catalytic reduction of carbon dioxide, water splitting, and small molecule activation using an integrated experimental and theoretical approach that offers fundamental insights into the underlying photochemical processes. One thrust investigates factors controlling reductive half-reactions. Among these are: (1) searching for visible-light absorbers to couple with electron transfer and/or catalytic processes; (2) avoiding high-energy intermediates through multi-electron, multi-proton processes; (3) using earth-abundant metals, or metal complexes that have bio-inspired or non-innocent ligands to achieve low-energy pathways via second-coordination sphere interactions or redox leveling; (4) adopting water as the target solvent and the source of protons and electrons; and (5) immobilizing catalysts on electrode or semiconductor surfaces for better turnover rates and frequencies. Another thrust investigates water oxidation, focusing on photoelectrolysis processes occurring in band-gap-narrowed semiconductor and catalyst components by: (i) tuning semiconductors to control their light-harvesting and charge-separation abilities; (ii) developing viable catalysts for the four-electron water oxidation process; (iii) immobilizing the homogenous catalysts and metal oxide catalysts on electrodes and/or metal-oxide nanoparticles; and (iv) exploring the interfacial water-decomposition reactions using carriers generated by visible-light irradiation with the goal of understanding semiconductorccatalystcwater charge transport.

Charge transfer for energy conversion
Transfer of electrons and holes in or between molecules or nano-objects is key to both natural and synthetic energy capture. The Chemistry Division has a long and distinguished history of experiments and theory in this field which is important for solar energy conversion. Members of the Chemistry Division conduct experimental and theoretical investigations of charge transfer using excitation by pulses of light or electrons.

Chemistry with ionizing radiation
Complementary to photochemical excitation, creation of transient molecular ions and free radicals using electron pulses is the premier method for study of fast chemical processes. A combination of photo- and electron excitation provides insights into chemistry beyond what can be learned with photoexcitation alone. The Department's Laser-Electron Accelerator Facility (LEAF) is a world-leading instrument for these studies.

Catalysis Science
Meeting the energy needs of the twenty-first century will require large improvements in the efficiency of industrial chemical reactions in general and the establishment of the "hydrogen economy" in particular. Since heterogeneous and homogeneous catalysis will play an important role in achieving these goals, there is a growing research effort in experimental and theoretical studies of catalysis at interfaces, by nanoparticles, and by transition metal complexes in solution. The expertise related to this field cuts broadly across many groups in the Chemistry Division. Active collaborations among members of several groups reflect the interdisciplinary nature of this work. Click on the link below for a summary of catalysis research at Brookhaven:

Surface Electrochemistry and Electrocatalysis
Basic information is sought on electrochemical interfaces and fuel cell electrocatalytic systems by studying the structural-, electronic-, and electrocatalytic-properties of atomic and molecular monolayers on single-crystal and nanoparticle substrates. The focus is on synthesizing and characterizing Pt monolayers on suitable single crystal and nanoparticle metal, metal oxide or alloy supports as the electrocatalysts for O2 reduction, and for H2, methanol and ethanol oxidation, as well as key materials properties and materials interactions that limit battery lifetime, performance and thermal stability. Programs include Metal- and Metal Oxide-Supported Platinum Monolayer Electrocatalysts for Oxygen Reduction and Advanced Cathode Catalysts: Oxygen Reduction Catalysts with Ultra-low Platinum Content.

The fast growing new field of nanoscience benefits greatly from collaborations among researchers in chemical dynamics, surface science and catalysis. Collaborations among groups in the Chemistry Division include members of the first four programs in the list above. As mentioned, a new collaboration combines catalysis and nanoscience. Active collaborations  have been established involving Chemistry Division programs (Catalysis on the Nanoscale: Preparation, Characterization and Reactivity of Metal-Based Nanostructures, Injection of Electrons and Holes into Nanostructures, Surface Chemical Dynamics), along with researchers from the Brookhaven Materials Science Department and the newly created Center for Functional Nanomaterials.

The extraction of useful energy from the combustion of fossil and alternative fuels will remain a key technology supporting modern society for many years. Understanding the underlying chemical reactions well enough to optimize efficiency and minimize emissions is a key challenge to experimental and theoretical gas phase chemistry. Members of the Gas-Phase Molecular Dynamics group develop and apply spectroscopic and theoretical tools to study fundamental problems in combustion chemistry.

Nuclear Chemistry
Nuclear chemistry has a rich history in the Brookhaven Chemistry Division, going back to the founding of the Laboratory in 1947.

The Neutrino Group was founded by Physics Nobel-prize winning Chemist Raymond Davis Jr. (Nobel Laureate in 2002), who was the first to observe neutrinos from the Sun and to discover the "Solar Neutrino Problem", that the number of solar neutrinos detected on Earth was only a fraction of that predicted by solar theory.

The group was active in two major solar neutrino experiments that have elucidated the nature of the Solar Neutrino Problem: from 1986-1998 in GALLEX at the Gran Sasso Laboratory in Italy, and from 1996 to 2006 in the Canadian Solar Neutrino Observatory (SNO); now SNOLAB. In fact, SNO "solved" the Problem some thirty years after its discovery by demonstrating that two-thirds of the neutrinos emitted by the Sun "disappear" by being transformed into the two other known neutrino varieties. Such a transformation requires that neutrinos have a hitherto unknown property, non-zero rest mass.

Neutrino research is at exciting era of precision measurements in search for the new physics beyond standard models. The current activities of group include Solar Neutrino (LENS), Reactor Neutrino (Daya Bay), and Neutrinoless Double-Beta Decay (SNO+) with new initiated R&D on reactor monitoring and non-proliferation, and water-based liquid scintillator.


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Last Modified: February 9, 2016