A Message from the Chair
ike Phoenix weather, the intensity of activity in ASUís Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry varies between hot and hotter! Spring semester began with a spate of news releases on research funding awards and discoveries by many members of the department. Now, at mid-semester, the department is intensively recruiting its next class of graduate students, bringing in the most promising candidates from across the country and showing them the breathtaking range of research opportunities available here. Finally, the semester will end with the departmentís proudest season: celebrating its studentsí accomplishments in awards and graduation ceremonies. To be sure, the department finds itself at the center of many forefront activities on campus Ė living up to what is expected of a core science discipline.
Alternative Energy Research
The department is heavily engaged in alternative energy research. A recent survey of press releases by ASU news services indicate that department researchers have taken a leadership role in 10 of about 25 major funded research projects on ASUís four campuses. For instance, the department faculty members direct two of the universityís five major research projects funded by the department of Energyís ďSolar America InitiativeĒ. ASU has the distinction of being one of only six major universities around the U.S. to have garnered a majority of the programís funding. Inorganic materials chemist Kouvetakis, along with physicist Jose Menendez and computational chemist Andrew Chizmeshya, are developing promising new classes of semiconducting materials that will revolutionize inorganic photovoltaics. Organic chemist Gould and physical chemist Dmitry Matyushov focus on fundamental problems of energetic disorder in electron conduction in polymer photovoltaic devices.
The departmentís researchers are also discovering and developing new electrochemical materials for new age batteries and fuel cell technology. Regents Professor and physical chemist Austen Angell has designed radically new ionic liquid solutions that have a high capacity to transport protons. He and researchers from ASUís Biodesign Institute and School of Materials have now combined their expertise to develop new concept hydrogen fuel cells and hydrogen generators. This work is being carried out under the aegis of the newly established Arizona Center for Renewable Energy. Bioinorganic chemist and recent arrival Anne Katherine Jones will also join them with her fresh research innovations on iron and nickel enzyme catalysts for hydrogen production. She has just won a DOD (Air Force Office of Scientific Research) Young Investigator Award to carry out that work. Physical chemist Jeff Yarger and electrochemist Dan Buttry are examining the role of metal nanoparticles in electrodes and catalyst applications in fuel cells. Their work heavily uses the departmentís magnificent new Magnetic Resonance Research Center for characterization.
A hallmark of the departmentís excellence is its considerable research strength in photosynthesis. Internationally recognized, this group has now taken a commanding leadership role in ASUís bioenergy effort. This led to the creation of the new Center for Bioenergy and Photosynthesis, which formally began as the Center for the Study of Early Events of Photosynthesis. Originally, this was the brain child of organic and biochemists Devens Gust, Ana Moore and Tom Moore. It has grown to include many scientists around the University and continues to attract top-notch chemists. Within the department, this includes Neal Woodbury, Jim Allen, Rebecca Wachter, Petra Fromme, Su Lin and, most recently, Kevin Redding. Along with other university scientists and engineers, this group is responsible for establishing several major projects on microbial biofuel, hydrogen catalysts for splitting water, artificial photosynthesis, and transmembrane electron transfer.
Certainly, chemists and biochemists of the department are very much in the midst of the major alternative energy initiatives of the University. There are also many other such stories to discuss relating to other areas including materials chemistry, medical chemistry, environmental chemistry, and nanoscience, to name a few ó but these will be saved for future newsletters.
For more information relating to what I have just described, I suggest that you visit the departmentís website which describes much more of our news and activities.