UNM School of Engineering Professor, Student Present Work at Workshop in China

August 13, 2007

Engineering graduate student Elise Switzer and her advisor Chemical and Nuclear Engineering Professor Abhaya Datye have returned from a professional workshop on Heterogeneous Catalysis and Surface Chemistry conducted at the Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics is Dalian, China.

The conference focused on heterogeneous catalysis, which plays a central role in all chemical conversions. Catalysis is so pervasive in modern day chemistry that it is estimated that 60 percent of today's chemical products and 90 percent of current chemical processes are based on catalytic chemical synthesis.

An example of a heterogeneous catalyst we use every day is our car's catalytic converter which takes toxic pollutants caused by combustion such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen monoxide and hydrocarbons and quickly converts them to harmless gases like carbon dioxide and nitrogen dioxide.

The process is so central to modern day chemistry that it is widely estimated that 60 percent of today's chemical products and 90 percent of current chemical processes are based on catalytic chemical synthesis.

Switzer, who received a scholarship to attend the workshop, presented her research on "Nanostructured Catalysts for Direct Methanol Fuel Cells." Datye gave an invited lecture on the "Dynamics and Mobility of Nanoparticles in Heterogeneous Catalysts." The workshop also included presentations from American and Chinese scientists representing both public and private institutional research.

"The U.S. China workshop provided a unique opportunity for us to see first hand some of their capabilities in science and technology," said Datye. "We came back truly impressed by their infrastructure and scope of research being conducted at the Dalian Institute of Chemical Physics. The visit will pave the way for future collaborations."

Following the workshop, students from the Partnership for International Research and Education (PIRE) Electron Chemistry and Catalysis at Interfaces (ECCI) program of the University of Santa Barbara led a tour to business and industrial regions of Shanghai and Beijing. The tour featured technology centered corporations including Microsoft, Kodak, BASF, General Electric, Accelergy and the Beijing office of the National Science Foundation.

The PIRE program of the National Science Foundation aims to enrich global experiences in interdisciplinary research for U.S. students.