Nanotechnology Project

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Environment, Health and Safety Research

NIRT: Active Nanoparticles in Nanostructured Materials Enabling Advances in Renewable Energy and Environmental Remediation

Project Information

Principal InvestigatorDavid Dixon
InstitutionUniversity of Alabama Tuscaloosa
Project URLView
Relevance to ImplicationsSome
Class of NanomaterialEngineered Nanomaterials
Impact SectorEnvironment
Broad Research Categories Generation, Dispersion, Transformation etc.
NNI identifierc7-6

Funding Information

Anticipated Total Funding$1,112,000.00
Annual Funding$278,000.00
Funding SourceNSF
Funding Mechanism
Funding Sector
Start Year2006
Anticipated End Year2010


This project will utilize new synthesis advances to develop catalytic materials for photo-electrochemical reactions with the aim of advancing renewable energy production and environmental remediation. Active nanostructured materials enable the development of new paradigms for the modification of interfaces which readily allow the generation of enhanced catalytic and sensing capabilities due to their uniquely confined structural and electronic properties. This integrated multidisciplinary program includes the synthesis of new nanomaterials that can undergo controllable changes, measurements of these changes, and the use of advanced computational methods to understand such changes in order to provide the most insight into how to control and utilize active nanostructured systems for practical technological applications. The overall approach is based on two recent synthetic advances by this team to generate nanoparticles and new nanostructures, which can be decorated by them. The first is the development of new compounds/materials for photo-electrochemical reactions. The second key advance has involved the development of porous silicon conductometric sensors. A key application area is the use of nanoparticles of TiO2, which have been modified by the addition of nitrogen to form the oxynitride, TiO2-xNx. This shifts the energy of the effective band gap of TiO2 so as to create a better photocatalytic absorber of photons in the visible part of the spectrum. In addition, these nanoparticles can be doped with metal ions to change how they interact with ligands such as water or organic molecules. A goal of the proposed effort is to use seeded nanostructured particles incorporated into hybrid micro/nano-structured environments as photocatalysts for: (1) the production of H2 from water splitting or from the gas-shift reaction and (2) the destruction of organic compounds in aqueous waste streams. A critical goal of the work is to utilize an integrated experimental and computational approach to understand the behavior of the catalytically active nanostructures, especially as they change structures and develop new properties in their active state. Graduate students, and undergraduate students participating in the program will acquire training on sophisticated instrumentation as they pursue new fundamental knowledge in complementary fields that will enable them to study the fundamental behavior of active nanostructures. They will leave with improved problem solving skills and greater scientific independence, and thus be better positioned to contribute to the national effort in science and technology. In addition, the student researchers will be exposed to a new interdisciplinary approach that will involve extensive collaboration with other universities and laboratories in the area of understanding the behavior of active nanoparticles. Undergraduates will be directly involved in the research program through the Honors College at The University of Alabama and the undergraduate programs at Case-Western and Georgia Tech. Involvement in the program of members of underrepresented groups will continue to be encouraged, and proactive efforts will be made to recruit members of these groups, particularly those early in their scientific careers. Minority students will be involved in the research through outreach programs at the participating institutions and through summer REU programs at the institutions. All participants in the project will be expected to contribute to the dissemination of research results in the scientific literature and at conferences.