Porous materials offer many fronts to improve the way society uses current energy resources. Our materials are developing alternative methods to store and separate advanced fuels that are quickly becoming important in economic commodities, such as hydrogen, methane, ethane, ammonia, etc. Designable porous material such as MOFs are very promising materials to store hydrogen and methane; whereas, MOFs, COF and POPs can enrich hydrocarbon feedstocks efficiently by designing the porous interior with interactive supramolecular moieties and size selective cavities within a high surface area material.
Clean air and water are essential for all life forms to thrive, but when this life sustaining-source is contaminated by natural events or anthropogenic activities it becomes imperative to know the contaminant (detection) and decrease (decontamination) it to safe levels. Along with the regulated standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for heavy metals, charged or neutral organic contaminants; there is now a growing concern for chemical compounds for which there is little to no data on their health effects in the environment. Current adsorbents, such as activated carbon, clays, zeolites, and resins, used to remove contaminants suffer from low adsorption capacity, slow kinetics, poor selectivity, and moderate/weak affinity. MOFs, COFs and POPs are an emerging class of adsorbent materials that have high uptake capacity, fast kinetic activity, strong affinity, and a broad acceptance to remove contaminants without removing beneficial trace elements (high selectivity) that are essential for maintaining a healthy ecosystem.
The chemistry of life relies on the activities of enzymes and proteins. Their importance in sustainable technologies and green chemistry are applicable in various fields such as pharmaceuticals, chemical/fine-chemical syntheses, food industries, biosensors, biofuel cells, bioelectronics, etc. Porous materials hosting enzymes or proteins can improve their respective bio-catalytic properties by enhancing their stability within a designed architecture to facilitate separation and recovery while maintaining high activity and selectivity. The internal pores of our porous materials can additionally be loaded with high concentrations of drugs and released in a sustainable manner reducing the risk associated with a huge spike of drug molecules entering the patient.
By combining functional nanomaterials and microfabrication strategies, we can develop chip-scale devices and optical fiber sensors. These sensors can detect low-levels of specific analytes in air or water and relay this information in real time to monitoring systems. Our porous materials are added to the surfaces of microresonator or coated on the surface of fiber optics—allow for low-cost fabrication. The stability of these materials can find different usages as portable sensors for real world applications.
Uncovering the nano domain of which MOFs, COFs, and POPs reside is established by the field of computational/theoretical chemistry. Their fundamental physical processes observed during experiments can be explained by theory to assist the design of porous materials; follow their applications in separations, gas uptake and catalysis; and ultimately advance these materials to match the properties of industrial catalysts or separator materials. We use Massive Parallel Monte Carlo software to simulate liquids, gases, molecular interfaces, and functionalized nanoscale materials for studying challenging concepts, such as clean energy applications, carbon dioxide capture/sequestering, and chemical weapon detection.
We are using the cavities within our porous materials to behave as "nano reactors" to activate molecules and thus synthesize purposeful materials that are otherwise hard to achieve or require high energy thresholds to overcome. The confined nano environment helps functional groups direct molecules in the same manner enzymes perform catalysis. Here, we are able to tune the "nano reactor" cavity's physical/chemical properties to alter its dimensions, chirality, hydrophobic/hydrophilic, and charged/neutral environments; and include metal species (complexes, clusters and nanoparticles) that can improve the reaction kinetics and thermodynamics. Our targets are to use byproducts from combustion as feedstock chemical for the synthesis of fine chemical, while also eliminating greenhouse gases.