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Energy and Sustainability

The UIC Dept. of Chemistry performs significant levels of energy related research.

The research program in the Ayitou group relies on established paradigms in organic chemistry, photochemistry and photophysics to devise novel organic light-harvesting materials. Importantly, we employ our home-made organic materials for light (solar energy) modulation/transformation to achieve non-linear photochemical upconversion and chain reactions. At the fundamental and practical levels, we also make use of steady-state absorption & emission spectroscopy and time-resolved ultrafast photophysical methods as well as computational tools to unravel the photo-behaviors of our molecular systems and the dynamic/kinetic of light-induced chemical transformations or molecular interactions of our interest.

The Cabana group is generally interested in the chemistry of inorganic materials, with emphasis on redox and transport properties.   They develop methodologies for the discovery of new phases and the synthesis of nanocrystals of complex materials, with the ultimate goal of achieving control of functionality across length scales.  Currently, the focus is placed on proposing new solutions for challenges in energy storage.

The Glusac group studies photocatalytic and electrocatalytic processes relevant to energy storage applications. Particular emphasis is placed on the incorporation of metal-free catalysis, where the catalytic motifs are incorporated into conductive carbon-based platforms (graphene quantum dots and nanoribbons). The photochemical processes are studied using ultrafast pump-probe laser spectroscopy, while the electrochemical processes are studied using standard voltammetric and potentiostatic methods.

The Hemley group explores the chemistry and physics of materials in extreme conditions up to multimegabar (>100 GPa) pressures using both experiments and computational theory. Current research is focused on transformations of hydrogen and hydrogen-rich materials at these pressures, work that has led to the discovery of room-temperature superconductivity; discovery of novel high-pressure compounds and pressure-induced chemical reactions; synthesis and characterization of new topological, magnetic, and superhard materials; earth and planetary materials, and implications for planetary interiors; and the molecular limits of life in extreme environments. The tools include diamond anvil cell micro-optical spectroscopies, synchrotron infrared spectroscopy, synchrotron x-ray diffraction and spectroscopies, neutron scattering, laser heating, magnetic susceptibility, electrical conductivity, and cryogenic methods, as well as high-pressure materials by design from first-principle computations.

The Jiang group focuses on applying scanning probe-based nanotechnology in nanostuctures design and properties investigation. They are interested in fundamental science and applications at the nano-scale, including charge transfer, electron localization and generation, photoabsorption and photoemission, which are at the heart of the next generation single-molecule devices.

The Mankad group synthesizes new inorganic and organometallic coordination compounds and studies their use for bio-inspired small molecule activation as well as homogeneous catalysis. Potential applications of their research include sustainable chemical synthesis, alternative energy conversion, and environmental protection.