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Robert Morris, Dept. of Chemistry

Research area:

Alternative Fuels

Specialty focus areas:

The efficient utilization of hydrogen; Photochemical generation of hydrogen


Green chemistry reduces or eliminates hazards in chemical processes and materials by the discovery and design of benign chemical processes. Successful strategies in this regard will utilize the elements of the periodic table that are essential to life and avoid those that are not. Since a breakthrough in 2008 on the discovery of catalysts that utilize iron for the reduction of polar bonds, our lab has been focused on producing catalysts based on this benign metal that are complexed with organic compounds. These new iron compounds may replace catalysts based on toxic, rare and expensive metals such as ruthenium, rhodium or palladium that are used in the chemical industry. While our current generation of catalysts utilize phosphorus in a potentially toxic form, we plan to replace this part of the catalyst with a purely organic component. These catalysts move hydrogen from one molecule to another and are potentially also important in the storage or production of hydrogen, a clean-burning fuel. ... Finding alternatives to a carbon-based energy economy is a pressing need for humanity. A recent report in Science (2009) from David Milstein´s group at the Weizmann Institute has shown that ruthenium compounds of a type very similar to ones studied in our lab are able to photochemical split water into hydrogen and oxygen. We have initiated the study of other ruthenium and iron complexes that might also have these properties and that are more practical for such a process. This research could be tied to the solar materials and energy emphasis of our chemistry department that involves several high profile researchers. The study of new water splitting compounds could be studied in detail by the exceptional laser spectroscopists of our department

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