Publication Date

RUI: Catalytic Aerogel Materials
The National Science Foundation
Division of Materials Research, Research in Undergraduate Institutions
Award Amount: $298,677 | Effective Dates: 06/15/2012 – 05/31/2015 | Award ID: DMR-1206631
Project Personnel: Principal Investigator Ann Anderson (Mechanical Engineering); co-PIs Bradford Bruno (Mechanical Engineering), Mary Carroll (Chemistry)
Project Summary: Catalytically active aerogels have the potential to transform automotive pollution mitigation technologies by eliminating the use of rare precious metals in internal combustion engine exhaust after-treatment applications. Aerogels’ unique physical properties, including high surface area, low density and good thermal stability, offer significant advantages for use as automotive catalysts. Union College researchers have developed a novel rapid supercritical extraction (RSCE) process for fabricating aerogels. This process offers significant potential advantages for cost effectively preparing catalytic aerogel materials, and for casting them in forms suited to practical applications in automotive catalysis. In this project the interdisciplinary Union College team is undertaking a systematic and iterative series of experiments to prepare, test and optimize catalytically active aerogel materials for eventual applications in automotive pollution mitigation. Specifically, the team is: (1) developing a fundamental understanding of the effect of aerogel precursor chemistry and processing conditions on the bulk physical properties of catalytic aerogel materials prepared via their RSCE process, (2) extending knowledge of the performance of catalytic aerogel materials through strength testing and measurements of the thermal stability, flow-through characteristics, hydrophobicity and catalytic ability of the catalytic aerogel materials, and (3) demonstrating that RSCE catalytic aerogel materials can be fabricated into forms rugged and robust enough for ultimate application as three-way automotive catalysts under realistic service conditions. This project provides undergraduate students from Union’s Mechanical Engineering and Chemistry Departments with exciting and relevant cross-disciplinary research experiences, which encourages them to consider graduate studies and careers in research and, therefore, impacts positively the US scientific infrastructure.