Using Lasers to Synthesize Highly Active Catalysts [online video]


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7th Annual VCU 3MT® Competition, held on October 15, 2021.


This research involves the use of lasers to design catalysts for the Suzuki Reaction.


Michael Moody: Hello, thank you all for being here. So in my research lab, we have this really cool, powerful laser and we use it to make catalysts. And a catalyst is a material which is added to a reaction mixture, and it'll make that reaction proceed faster. The products are formed faster with the addition of a catalyst as opposed to no catalyst. Now, some chemical reactions, they occur so slowly that the addition of a catalyst is completely necessary. For example, there's a famous chemical reaction called the Suzuki Reaction, and it's used by pharmaceutical companies in the drug development process. And so what we do with my research, is we make catalysts that use palladium, because the Suzuki Reaction uses palladium, which is an element on the periodic table. And we design catalysts for the Suzuki Reaction. And the way we do it is we take a solid material, the solid target, and we place it in this chamber. The chamber is shaped like a cylinder and it's composed of two plates made of stainless steel. The top plate is cooled, and the bottom plate is heated, and then we irradiate it with the laser. The laser is about 1,000 times more powerful than the average laser pointer. When it comes in contact with the target, the target vaporizes into these small little particles. And because of the temperature difference between the two plates, the air inside this chamber pushes the particles up and they start to collect on the top of the cold plate. Then we collect these small particles that were formed and we add palladium atoms to them, and that is our catalyst. At that point, we're ready to use that new material we made for the Suzuki Reaction. We actually run the reaction in the lab and test it. And, one thing that's interesting is the new material that we make. Its chemical and physical properties can interact with those palladium atoms and actually enhance the performance of the catalyst. Also, the laser is an interesting method of making these particles because it bypasses having to use toxic chemicals. So what this process, there's no toxic liquid chemical waste we have to get rid of. And the solid material that we vaporize, we can change different types of solid materials and get different types of those vaporized particles to make new catalysts. So what my research does is we develop new materials to make catalysts for the Suzuki, with environmentally- friendly ways for drug discovery. Thank you.


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