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Marcus DroverChemist Marcus Drover will research the creation of new and useful molecules from petroleum industry by-products.

Award to support chemist’s research into petroleum by-products

Winning an award from the American Chemistry Society Petroleum Research Fund will allow UWindsor researcher Marcus Drover and his team to head in a new direction: exploring the creation of new and useful molecules out of petroleum industry by-products.

Since 1953, the Petroleum Research Fund, managed by the American Chemical Society, has supported fundamental research directly related to petroleum or fossil fuels at academic institutions.

Funded proposals are for fundamental research in the petroleum field, defined as petroleum, natural gas, coal, shale, tar sands, and like materials. This award provides about $140,000 over a period of two years.

An assistant professor and inorganic chemist, Dr. Drover is the 2020 John C. Polanyi Prize Winner in Chemistry. His proposal will enable his team to target the catalytic fluorination of hydrocarbons using base metal catalysis. Such hydrocarbons comprise products refined from oil.

This work involves the preparation, characterization, and study of metal-fluorine containing fragments that display unique reactivity patterns.

“The exciting part of this fund is that it is all about supporting a research stream,” says Drover. “The question we are trying to answer here is how to instill value into petroleum industry by-products.”

Fluorine is a useful element that can be incorporated into molecules to give valuable properties, but reagents such as elemental fluorine are highly reactive and show poor selectivity.

“Fluorine plays a key role in materials chemistry where fluorinated-polymer components are commonly employed in fuel and solar cell technologies, for example,” says Drover.

“Fluorine is also pervasive in the medicinal, agrochemical, and pharmaceutical sectors with approximately 20 to 25 per cent of all commercial drugs containing at least one fluorine atom ­— there are many directions this project could take.”

Drover says the University of Windsor already has the state-of-the-art equipment and infrastructure required.

“This fresh venture for our team will help contribute to the growing area of fluorination, expanding the fluorine reagent toolbox and providing a quality learning experience for our students,” he says.

“I am very grateful to the grant reviewers and administrators, and I am excited to see how this project will unfold.”