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Huiyuan Zhu has received a three-year grant with a total of $475,000 from National Science Foundation (NSF)

Huiyuan

Huiyuan Zhu, an assistant professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering at Virginia Tech, has received a three-year grant with a total of $475,000 from National Science Foundation (NSF) to support her project "Cooperative Site and Electrolyte Design for Optimizing Interfacial Electrokinetics".

Hongliang Xin, an associate professor also in the Department of Chemical Engineering at Virginia Tech, is a co-investigator for this project.

In this project, Huiyuan, Hongliang, and their teams will develop new strategies to improve the performance of catalysts that recycle carbon dioxide (CO2) using renewable electricity.

 

ABSTRACT

With the support of the Chemical Catalysis program in the Division of Chemistry, Drs. Huiyuan Zhu and Hongliang Xin of the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University are studying new strategies to improve the performance of catalysts that recycle carbon dioxide (CO2) using renewable electricity. Traditional metal electrodes, including precious metals (Au, Ag) and base metals (Cu, Zn), have shown encouraging performance toward CO2 reduction. However, the process is limited by low energy efficiency and poor product selectivity. These processes are conducted in water, and the competing reduction of water to H2 is largely responsible for this inefficiency. This proposal addresses this challenge using ionic liquids as non-aqueous electrolytes together with electrode materials designed to work with ionic liquids. The educational components of the project include the following: (1) The interdisciplinary training of undergraduate and graduate students in electrochemical techniques, materials characterization, and molecular modeling. (2) The involvement of diverse underrepresented groups including female students in science and engineering. (3) The implementation of STEM outreach programs to K-12 students from diverse groups and low-income families through hands-on demonstrations that illustrate the importance of nanomaterials, modeling, catalysis, and energy in our daily life. Undergraduate summer interns from underrepresented minority groups will be recruited to work on this project through a partnership with Hampton University.