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Environmental Chemistry

Solving many of the environmental problems of today requires both a strong basis in the fundamental science as well as innovative research ideas. The graduate program in chemistry at the University of Oregon offers both. In Geri Richmond’s lab, researchers are investigating a variety of adsorption and exchange processes that occur at liquid and solid surfaces that have direct relevance to many important environmental processes.

In recent years, several labs have begun projects in green chemistry.

Green chemistry specifically focuses on the rational development of environmentally-benign products and processes. At the UO, research groups apply basic chemical principles to develop innovative products and processes.

Several research groups are developing products that are environmentally benign and/or have applications that are environmentally friendly. For example, new solar cell materials can be made of benign materials and be used to cleanly generate electricity. Specific areas of interest to UO research groups include:

Photoactive materials – photodegradeable plastics, photochemical water splitting (Tyler), and photoelectric cells (used in solar panels), (Dave Johnson).
Electronic materials – nanomicroelectronics (Hutchison) and low-temperature modulated elemental reactions (Dave Johnson).
Thermoelectric Materials – materials to produce electrical energy from waste heat (Dave Johnson).
Polymers – photodegradeable plastics (Tyler).

To meet the goals of green chemistry, greener methods of preparing these and other new materials must also be developed. UO research groups have a strong emphasis on developing greener chemical processes including:

Catalysts for use in water – developing aqueous organometallic chemistries for making ammonia in an environmentally-sound way; and activating carbon-hydrogen bonds in water (Tyler).
Design of ligands for hazardous substances – binding, separating, and sequestering of a wide range of metal ions, including toxic heavy metals, radio isotopes, and hazardous compounds (Hutchison, Doxsee, Darren Johnson); and developing nanoscale assemblies that can act as hosts for harmful molecules such as toxins and nerve agents (Darren Johnson).
Green manufacturing of nanomaterials – combining green principles and nanoscience to develop new technology for microelectronics (Hutchison); developing methods for the phase- and shape-controlled synthesis of materials using benign precursors and solvents (Doxsee); developing novel microchannel reactors for efficient high-volume production of nanoparticles (Hutchison, Doxsee, Lonergan).