Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Photochemistry Research Could Lead To Cleaner Environment, New Sensors

Date:
November 21, 2003
Source:
Binghamton University
Summary:
Using tools that improve by several orders of magnitude on the accuracy of microscopes and stopwatches, Alistair Lees is working at the molecular level to explore the effect of light on chemical systems. The field is called photochemistry and Lees' efforts could help to find less-expensive ways to produce gasoline, make the environment cleaner and safer, and enhance the quality of microcircuitry and the equipment that relies on it.

Alistair Lees spends much of his research time hoping to see the light.

Related Articles


Using tools that improve by several orders of magnitude on the accuracy of microscopes and stopwatches, Lees is working at the molecular level to explore the effect of light on chemical systems. The field is called photochemistry and Lees' efforts could help to find less-expensive ways to produce gasoline, make the environment cleaner and safer, and enhance the quality of microcircuitry and the equipment that relies on it.

While most chemists work with molecules in their ground or normal states, Lees has spent the past two decades working with "excited" molecules, a state attained when molecules absorb light, known as second chemistry.

The reactions that occur during these excited states are incredibly fast - typically about one tenth of one quadrillionth of a second. To be studied, they must be slowed or in some other way inhibited and Lees has developed a unique approach.

Excited state molecules generally emit light, give off heat or break into fragments as they return to the ground state. Relying on this, many chemists - like forensic experts who determine the nature of an explosion by studying resulting debris - use a technique called matrix isolation to study the fragments produced immediately after a molecule emits light.

Lees has instead synthesized entire new molecules, which do not fragment in their excited states. When cooled, his creations remain intact and display luminescence, giving him an unprecedented chance to study the second chemistry involved - an approach, which has opened the door to the development of several promising applications.

Working with $1.2 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Energy and the American Chemical Society, Lees is studying hydrocarbon activation, particularly how some new rhodium and iridium chemical compounds act as catalysts to break apart the bonds of methane.

The reaction suggests the possibility that the small methane molecule could be built up to the size of the larger oil molecule. Methane, or natural gas, usually does not react with other compounds, but because it is both abundant and recyclable, it is an attractive alternative to oil.

Lees' preliminary research indicates it might someday be able to replace oil in the production of many fuels, as well as a host of other products, including plastics and pharmaceuticals.

Lees' research is also likely to help manufacturers of a wide range of products. Supported by a grant from IBM, Lees is incorporating some of his light-emitting molecules into adhesive polymers. As the adhesive sets, its luminescence changes from red to orange to yellow, signaling appropriate curing and an optimal bond.

The microelectronics industry is interested in this research. If adhesives aren't completely set during the assembly process, machines fail, parts break and production costs soar. The aerospace and automobile industries are also interested, Lees said. "Clearly, it's important, when you're riding in a car or a plane that it not fall apart," he said Photoinitiators is another application of Lees' work. "We found that some of our organometallic compounds actually initiate polymerizations reactions when exposed to light," he said. Lees is collaborating with General Electric and IBM to research how this technique could be used to enhance microcircuitry production.

Another application of Lees' work is likely to stem from the arena known as supramolecular chemistry. Lees is finding ways to insert luminescent compounds into the cavities of some large molecules. Because the luminescence of such molecules changes substantially in reaction to their environment, they make excellent sensors.

Recently, Lees and his team found a compound that is a good sensor for cyanide. Others, he said, are sensitive to hydrocarbon vapors, which may help detect pollutants, another important application in today's industrial world.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Binghamton University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Binghamton University. "Photochemistry Research Could Lead To Cleaner Environment, New Sensors." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 November 2003. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/11/031121071944.htm>.
Binghamton University. (2003, November 21). Photochemistry Research Could Lead To Cleaner Environment, New Sensors. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/11/031121071944.htm
Binghamton University. "Photochemistry Research Could Lead To Cleaner Environment, New Sensors." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/11/031121071944.htm (accessed December 21, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Matter & Energy News

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Touch-Free Smart Phone Empowers Mobility-Impaired

Touch-Free Smart Phone Empowers Mobility-Impaired

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Dec. 21, 2014) A touch-free phone developed in Israel enables the mobility-impaired to operate smart phones with just a movement of the head. Suzannah Butcher reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Building Google Into Cars

Building Google Into Cars

Reuters - Business Video Online (Dec. 19, 2014) Google's next Android version could become the standard that'll power your vehicle's entertainment and navigation features, Reuters has learned. Fred Katayama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
AP Review: Nikon D750 and GoPro Hero 4

AP Review: Nikon D750 and GoPro Hero 4

AP (Dec. 19, 2014) What to buy an experienced photographer or video shooter? There is some strong gear on the market from Nikon and GoPro. The AP's Ron Harris takes a closer look. (Dec. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Obama: Better Ways to Create Jobs Than Keystone Pipeline

Obama: Better Ways to Create Jobs Than Keystone Pipeline

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) US President Barack Obama says that construction of the Keystone pipeline would have 'very little impact' on US gas prices and believes there are 'more direct ways' to create construction jobs. Duration: 00:47 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins