Research Projects

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Atmospheric Chemistry of Mercury
Biofuel Combustion
Electron Beams for Creating Commodity Chemicals from CO2

Atmospheric Chemistry of Mercury   Mercury is emitted to the atmosphere mostly as gaseous elemental mercury (Hg(0)), but is transferred to ecosystems mostly as Hg(II) compounds. Ignorance of the mechanism and kinetics of oxidation of Hg(0) to Hg(II) prevents modelers from reliably predicting when and where mercury enters ecosystems. We have have used chemical intuition and quantum chemistry to unravel much of the oxidation mechanisms. We are usingexperiment and computational chemistry to determine rate constants for modelers to use. Students working on this project benefit from interaction with Dr. Huiting Mao at ESF, who carries out modeling and field work on mercury.

Biofuel Combustion   (not active at this time) Researchers have achieved a molecular-level understanding of the kinetics of combustion of fuels derived from alkanes, but not for radicals likely to be formed from biodiesel fuel (esters of long-chain fatty acid). Also, smaller bio-derived compounds are being considered as fuel components, but their combustion properties are not yet understood. We collaborate with other researchers to do combustion experiments, kinetic modeling, and computations to enable prediction of combustion properties of future fuels.

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Electron Beams for Production of Commodity Chemicals from CO2.   What are we going to dow with CO2 captured at power plants? One answer is to use it to produce useful products. We are building kinetic models of irradiation of mixtures of CO2 and CH4 to see what products can be made (e.g., methanol, acetic acid, etc.). We are working with a company that plans to test this concept, and use their results to improve the model.

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