Marcus Drover’s laboratory will soon house a specialized workstation allowing UWindsor researchers to design new molecules for clean energy projects.
Dr. Drover and his co-applicants, chemistry and biochemistry professors Stephen Loeb and Jeremy Rawson, received $150,000 from the Canada Foundation for Innovation John R. Evans Leaders Fund and the Ontario Research Fund for their project, “Infrastructure for Clean Energy Research: Innovative Studies on Novel Catalysts for Small-Molecule Fixation.”
This grant will allow for the acquisition of an inert atmosphere workstation — a box equipped with large rubber gloves and a highly controlled low-oxygen and low-moisture atmosphere, allowing for the manipulation of reactive molecules.
“We are going to develop more efficient routes to produce new and exciting molecules,” says Drover.
“We are interested in designing catalysts, species which exhibit turnover in a reaction sequence, in order to generate new materials that will contribute to the growing areas of energy and sustainability science: from developing new catalysts for dihydrogen fuel cells to thinking about the selective reduction of carbon dioxide to fuels that you can use in your automobile — it all starts with designing new molecules.”
In order to create such micro-sized molecules, the researchers require the workstation to provide an inert, unreactive environment. Drover says the workstations will be filled with an inert gas, dinitrogen, that helps prevent sensitive molecules from degrading as they would under atmospheric conditions.
“Our research proposal simply would not be possible in the absence of these workstations,” he says. “This system is requisite for the low-temperature generation and characterization of reactive molecules pertinent to clean energy transformations.”
The grant will also allow the researchers to purchase spectroscopy equipment that will be housed in the box — an ultraviolet-visible spectrophotometer and an infrared spectrometer — which will enable the team to study how different energies of light interact with their new molecules.
“From this spectroscopy equipment, we will uncover molecular details, similar to a human fingerprint. This data tells us about specific details such as how bonds are vibrating.”
The equipment will be housed in Essex Hall.
“This infrastructure will allow the team to conduct research that bridges the traditional limits of synthetic inorganic and materials chemistry, with an overarching goal to develop new functional molecules and main group compounds that promote the equitable use of energy-related resources,” says Drover.
“The equipment will be available to any campus researcher who needs it, which allows for external collaboration.”
The project will help train students in synthetic inorganic chemistry, developing skill sets required by research and development institutions in Windsor-Essex and beyond.
“The projects supported by this infrastructure are unique in Canada and promise to push forward the priorities of federal and provincial governments, developing sustainable chemistry for energy research as a means to protect our natural world,” Drover says.