2018 Seminars

Towards Sustainable Ammonia Synthesis with Plasma-enabled Catalysis

October 17, 2018


Prateek Mehta, a fifth-year graduate student in the Schneider laboratory in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, presented “Towards Sustainable Ammonia Synthesis with Plasma-enabled Catalysis.” The group’s research focuses on developing a more sustainable way to produce ammonia, a compound of nitrogen and hydrogen. It is an essential chemical for fertilizer, and in turn, a vital component in the way we consume food.

The conventional method of producing ammonia, known as the Haber process, happens in large chemical plants using large quantities of nitrogen and hydrogen. The strong triple bonds of the nitrogen molecules are difficult to break, requiring extreme temperatures and a great deal of energy. By generating a plasma in the lab to assist the catalysts in the chemical transformation, it enables the reactions to take place under much milder conditions more suitable for renewable energy sources.

Mehta credits the collaboration between ND Energy affiliated research groups to convert models into results in the lab, carried out in part at the Materials Characterization Facility.

“(Schneider’s) computational experience combines nicely with the experimental experience of Jason Hicks and David Go,” Mehta said.

While the focus of their project has been on the production of ammonia, Mehta is hopeful their discoveries will find broader applications for all chemical reactions, such as converting carbon dioxide to more useful products at lower temperatures.

“These are significant challenges we face as a society,” Mehta said. “In particular, when it come to our use of energy, catalysts are a big part of it. They are everywhere.”

Interfacial Thermal Conductance from Gold Nanoparticles: Particle Shape & Size

October 17, 2018

Suzanne Neidhart

Suzanne Neidhart, a fifth-year graduate student, is a member of the Gezelter research group in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. She presented on "Interfacial Thermal Conductance from Gold Nanoparticles: Particle Shape & Size."

Her computational work centers on thermal conductivity – how heat moves on the surfaces of gold nanoparticles. Heat transfer from gold particles to their surroundings is an important factor in photothermal therapy, a type of radiation treatment for cancer.

“If we can learn how heat works on a nanoscale, we can then scale it up,” Neidhart said, noting that the results can also be used to improve the efficiency of solar cells and batteries.

Like Mehta, Neidhart also acknowledges the collaborative nature of ND Energy affiliated research groups. Along with the Schneider group, the Gezelter group participates in the Computational Molecular Science and Engineering Laboratory (CoMSEL) with the research groups of Alexander Dowling, Edward Maginn, Jonathan Whitmer, Steven Corcelli, and John Parkhill. Funded by ND Energy, CoMSEL was designed to provide a unique, high quality, cross-college computational research and collaborative space for both scientists and engineers.  CoMSEL participants meet weekly to hear presentations and discuss each other’s work.

“An interdisciplinary approach is very important,” Neidhart said. “I often get my best ideas from listening to people’s talks in other fields. It helps you gain a broader view and see your work more clearly.”

Events like ND Energy’s luncheon seminars provide an opportunity for researchers to communicate their work to an audience outside their own field. Neidhart says these soft skills are beneficial in preparation for job interviews. She is on track to finish her Ph.D. in January and will begin a postdoctoral position with the George Schatz research group at Northwestern University.