National Science Foundation Award

Award Date: June 2012


"RUI: Catalytic Aerogel Materials"
NSF Award ID DMR-1206631
PI: Ann Anderson; Co-PIs: Brad Bruno & Mary Carroll

An interdisciplinary team in Mechanical Engineering and Chemistry at Union College to undertake fundamental studies of catalytic aerogel materials (CAMs), and to demonstrate the utility of CAMs for ultimate application as three-way catalysts for pollution mitigation in automotive technologies.  The National Science Foundation has awarded a $298,677 continuing grant to Ann Anderson (Agnes S. MacDonald Professor of Mechanical Engineering), Brad Bruno (Thomas J. Watson, Sr. and Emma Watson Day Associate Professor, and Chair of Mechanical Engineering), and Mary Carroll (Professor of Chemistry) in support of this research project "RUI: Catalytic Aerogel Materials."


The researchers have developed a novel rapid supercritical extraction (RSCE) process for fabricating aerogels, a one-step supercritical extraction process that takes place in as little as three hours.  Building upon the preliminary results, this team is now poised to undertake a systematic and iterative series of experiments to prepare, test and optimize catalytically active RSCE aerogel materials for eventual applications in automotive pollution mitigation.

Through this grant, the Union College Mechanical Engineering and Chemistry Departments will continue to involve undergraduate students in exciting and relevant cross-disciplinary research. These departments have a demonstrated history of excellence in introducing undergraduate students to research at a formative stage of their academic careers, providing them with coursework that provides the necessary background for success in graduate studies, and placing them successfully in graduate programs and industrial positions. To date, more than 70 undergraduate students in mechanical engineering, chemistry, and biochemistry have performed aerogel research at Union, working alongside faculty mentors, using state-of-the-art instrumentation, presenting and, in some cases, publishing their results. Because students participate in a meaningful way in research projects, they are able to better appreciate the inner workings of an experimental research laboratory, by far the best way to stimulate and interest students in a career in research. The PIs will involve undergraduate students in the proposed research, including students from traditionally underrepresented groups, and encourage the students to consider graduate studies and careers in research; thus, this work will have a positive impact on the scientific infrastructure of this nation.