College Grants & Sponsored Programs

Robertson Awarded NSF MRI Grant

Publication Date
Headshot of Professor Ellen Robertson

$224,834; NSF Major Research Instrumentation (MRI)

Acquisition of a Multifunctional Thermal Analysis Instrument for Interdisciplinary Research and Research Training in Advanced Nanomaterial Development

Principal Investigator: Ellen Robertson, assistant professor of chemistry; Co-Principal Investigators: Ann Anderson, Agnes S. MacDonald Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Mary Carroll, Dwane W. Crichton Professor of Chemistry, Yijing Stehle, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, and Christopher Whitehead, assistant professor of chemistry; Senior Personnel: Bradford Bruno, professor of mechanical engineering

This grant supports the acquisition of a thermogravimetric analyzer integrated with a Fourier Transform infrared spectrometer and a gas chromatograph/mass spectrometer (TGA/FTIR/GC/MS). Research enabled by the instrument focuses on characterizing the structural, mechanical, chemical, and physical properties of diverse classes of modern nanomaterials, including plasmonic nanomaterials for detecting pollutants, semiconducting quantum dots for heavy metal sensing, metal oxide nanocrystals and aerogels for catalysis, and functionalized graphene oxide membranes for water filtration and purification.

The acquired TGA/FTIR/GC/MS system will contribute to the investigation of major questions across the fields of chemistry, mechanical engineering, and nanotechnology including: (1) What factors affect the packing density of gold nanoparticles embedded in plasmonic peptoid nanosheets? (2) What is the ideal ZnS quantum dot derivative to detect heavy metal contaminants in freshwater systems? (3) What factors affect cobalt oxide nanoparticle’s ability to catalyze hydrogenation reactions? (4) What is the impact of water molecules on the laminating structure, permeation channel, and stability of the graphene oxide membrane? (5) By what process(es) do hydrophobic aerogels lose hydrophobicity following extended exposure to heat and/or light? and (6) What changes do catalytic aerogel materials undergo during heat treatment? In addition to the impact on current researchers, the new instrument will enable the PIs and SP to develop new research programs with transformative impacts in areas related to sustainability, clean energy, and environmental remediation.

The TGA/FTIR/GC/MS system will be incorporated into at least three regularly offered courses, as well as multiple faculty-mentored undergraduate research projects annually. Undergraduates who gain experience utilizing this complex instrument and subsequently analyzing the data acquired will be well-positioned to succeed in graduate school or careers in STEM fields.

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Nicole Marshall
Assistant VP for Academic Advancement and Research Administration &
Director of the Grants Office
(518) 388-6169

Mercedes Susi
Senior Associate Director of Sponsored Programs and Faculty Fellowships
(518) 388-6984