posted January 8, 2014

Grant Supports Research into the Formation of Nanoscale Thin Films

A grant from the American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund will support research into the characteristics of metal-organic coordinated thin films, work that is seeking to enhance their potential for industrial processes like the refining of gasoline.

Dr. Mary (Beth) Anderson, assistant professor of chemistry and Towsley Research Scholar, has received $50,000 from the ACS PRF that will help her and her team of student researchers to understand how the films assemble on the molecular level.  By understanding the intricacies of this formation, the external topography and internal framework of the film can be designed for specific applications.

“This research will study how thin films form from the bottom up,” she said.  “So we’re looking at how the molecules organize themselves to create a bulk material, assembling themselves into a thin film.”

“In particular, this proposal is going to focus on layer-by-layer deposition of these films with a specific emphasis on understanding catalytic sites within the framework,” Anderson said.

These films can have an internal framework that has ordered nanometer-size pores and has applications primarily interacting with molecules in the gas-phase, such as gas storage.  Catalytic sites are locations within the films that react with these gas molecules.  Films can be assembled with a designed structure for chemical transformations to convert one chemical species into a desired product or for gas separations to absorb one molecule while allowing another to pass through.  Such films could potentially be used to help remove contaminants such as sulfur from gasoline.

“It’s an improved method for isolating toxins that are being released into the environment,” she said.

The ACS PRF grant will help support two students in working with Anderson on the project full-time during each of the next three summers.  Having participated in research as an undergraduate herself and seeing its importance in her education, she values that Hope makes such learning a priority.

“I’m thankful for the opportunity that I received, and I’m thankful to be able to offer the opportunity here at Hope,” she said.

Anderson has been a member of the Hope faculty since 2010.  In 2011, she and Dr. Jennifer Hampton, associate professor of physics, received a major instrumentation award from the National Science Foundation for an atomic force microscope that supported preliminary research by Anderson for this proposal and will be integral in this new research venture.  In January 2013, she was named a “Towsley Research Scholar” by Hope, recognition that provides ongoing support for her research for four years.

Anderson graduated from Samford University with a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry in 2001 and completed her doctorate in chemistry at Pennsylvania State University in 2006.  Prior to coming to Hope, she was a postdoctoral faculty fellow at Boston University and postdoctoral researcher at Pennsylvania State University.