Boston College Assistant Professor of Chemistry Dunwei Wang's work with silicon nanowires and his related construct, Nanonets, has shown these stable, tiny wire-like structures can be used in processes ranging from energy collection to hydrogen-generating water-splitting.
Teaming up with fellow Boston College Assistant Professor of Chemistry Kian L. Tan, the researchers have taken aim at a role for nanowires in photosynthesis.
Their work has produced a process that closely resembles photosynthesis, employing silicon nanowires to collect light energy to power reactions capable of synthesizing the basic compounds of two popular pain-killing, anti-inflammatory drugs, they report in the current edition of Angewandte Chemie, the journal of the German Chemical Society.
The reaction sequence offers an approach that differs from earlier attempts to sequester carbon dioxide with sunlight and solves the vexing problem of carbon's low selectivity, which so far has limited earlier methods to the production of fuels. Tan and Wang report their process offers the selectivity required to produce complex organic intermediaries capable of developing pharmaceuticals and high-value chemicals.
The process succeeds in taming stubborn carbon, which structurally resists most efforts to harness it for a single chemical product. Typically, refined forms of carbon molecules must first be produced to produce the necessary results.
"If we can start to use carbon dioxide and light to power reactions in organic chemistry, there's a huge benefit to that. It allows you to bypass the middle man of fossil fuels by using light to drive the chemical reaction," said Tan. "The key is the interaction of two fields – materials and synthetic chemistry. Separately, these fields may not have accomplished this on their own. But together, we combined our knowledge to make it work."
During photosynthesis, plants capture sunlight and use this solar energy and carbon dioxide to fuel chemical reactions.
Tan and Wang used silicon nanowires as a photocathode, exploiting the wire's efficient means of converting solar energy to electrical energy. Electrons released from the atoms in the nanowires are then transferred to organic molecules to trigger chemical reactions.
In this case, the researchers used aromatic ketones, which when struck by electrons become active and attack and bind carbon dioxide. Further steps produced an acid that allowed the team to create the precursors to ibuprofen and naproxen with high selectivity and high yield, the team reports.
Tan and Wang were joined in the research by Research Assistant Guangbi Yuan, PhD '12, graduate student Rui Liu, doctoral student Candice L. Joe, and former doctoral student Thomas E. Lightburn, PhD '11.
Tan said it is no accident that the process so closely resembles natural photosynthesis, as chemists are constantly drawing inspiration from nature in their work."Researchers in my field are always drawing inspiration from nature," said Tan. "You take the basic lessons and you try to do it in an artificial way. In this work, we're trying to learn lessons from nature, although we can't copy nature directly."
Ed Hayward | EurekAlert!
Individual Receptors Caught at Work
19.10.2017 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg
Rapid environmental change makes species more vulnerable to extinction
19.10.2017 | Universität Zürich
University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event
On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...
Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.
Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....
Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).
When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...
Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.
How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...
Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.
It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...
17.10.2017 | Event News
10.10.2017 | Event News
10.10.2017 | Event News
19.10.2017 | Materials Sciences
19.10.2017 | Materials Sciences
19.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy