Chemists advance new theory to support next generation cleantech materials

December 13 2008 / by Garry Golden
Category: Energy   Year: 2018   Rating: 1


The future of energy systems will be shaped by our ability to control light, electrons and molecules.  

If we expect to transform the world's largest industries then we need fundamental breakthroughs in materials science and engineering. 

This is not the time for incremental improvements, or resting on strategies of 'consuming' green.  This is the time to turn to science- chemistry, physics, and biology.

If we expect to use our natural resources more efficienctly, and create low cost solar cells, batteries and fuel cells, then we need to leap foward in our ability to manipulate and assemble chains (polymers) of hydrogen and carbon.

Now we are a step closer to realizing this new age of advanced materials science that enable leaps in performance and efficiencies.

What happened?
A team of Oregon University researchers led by Dr Marina Guenza, using data collected by European materials researchers, has developed a theory that could end the confusion over molecule behavior in the creation of polymer materials.

The new framework for explaining molecule movement might help lower costs and expand performance of materials used in the fields of engineering, nanotechnology, and renewable energy.

Why is this important to the future of energy?

There is no way to consumer ourselves into a 'greener economy'.

We can only arrive at that future when we become masters of photons, electrons and molecules. 

"The level of agreement between the data and the theory is remarkable," said Marina G. Guenza, a professor of theoretical physical chemistry at the UO. "We are making the connection between the chemistry of molecules and how they behave. It is really fundamental science. Our findings are exciting for experimentalists because we can see phenomena that they cannot understand. This theory is now explaining what is happening inside their samples. They are no longer dealing with just a set of data; our theory provides a picture of what is happening."

This new theory addresses the often-seen behavior of molecules as they begin to form a glass under processing -- explaining why molecules slow and freeze into disorganized structures rather than ordering into a crystal, Guenza said. "We would really like to be able to control the properties of the material so that we can tailor the synthesis to achieve exact results."

Using this theory, tomorrow's specialty plastics may be produced more precisely and cheaply as it reduces the guesswork and the costly, time-consuming testing of thousands of samples at various stages of production.


Eureka Press Release

The work is described in a paper appearing in the Dec. 18 issue of the Journal of Physical Chemistry B (online Dec. 11).

Image Credit University of Oregon Guenza Team

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