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Maximizing Energy Gains from Tiny Nanoparticles

Eric Stach and Dmitri Zakharov of the CFN with Anatoly Frenkel of Yeshiva University

Eric Stach and Dmitri Zakharov of the CFN with Anatoly Frenkel of Yeshiva University and his postdoc, Yuanyuan Li, sitting at the Titan 80/300 Environmental Transmission Electron Microscope at the CFN.

Sometimes big change comes from small beginnings. That’s especially true in the research of Anatoly Frenkel, a professor of physics at Yeshiva University, who is working to reinvent the way we use and produce energy by unlocking the potential of some of the world’s tiniest structures – nanoparticles.

“The nanoparticle is the smallest unit in most novel materials, and all of its properties are linked in one way or another to its structure,” said Frenkel. “If we can understand that connection, we can derive much more information about how it can be used for catalysis, energy, and other purposes.”

Frenkel is collaborating with Eric Stach and other scientists at Brookhaven to develop new ways to study how nanoparticles behave in catalysts – the “kick-starters” of chemical reactions that convert fuels to useable forms of energy and transform raw materials to industrial products. The scientists are working to develop a new “micro-reactor” that will enable them to explore many aspects of catalytic function using multiple approaches at the National Synchrotron Light Source (NSLS), the soon-to-be-completed NSLS-II, and the Center for Functional Nanomaterials. This approach helps them to understand multiple aspects of how catalysts work so that their design can be tweaked to improve their function — work that could lead to big gains in energy efficiency and cost savings for industrial processes.

The collaboration also offers opportunities for Frenkel’s undergraduate students at Yeshiva University’s Stern College for Women to experience the challenges of research. Many have accompanied him to Brookhaven to assist in his work using NSLS and other cutting-edge instruments.

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