Chemistry professor Anthony Chianese gets NSF grant for solar energy research

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Colgate chemistry professor Anthony Chianese recently received a $225,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to continue his research into how to convert solar energy into a liquid transportable form like methanol or ethanol.

Chianese and his student researchers are attempting to develop catalysts for chemical reactions that use the sun’s energy to convert low-energy chemical compounds into high-energy compounds that can be used as fuels, regardless of the sun’s strength and presence on a given day.

These catalysts may have potential use for storing the solar energy, making it more useful as a fuel alternative.

The NSF approved Chianese’s three-year grant that will allow him to collaborate with fellow chemistry professor Jason Keith, and work directly with senior chemistry majors throughout the academic year. This year, Melissa Barnard ’15 and Daniel Kim ’15 will assist him in the project.

Barnard is no stranger to the Chianese lab, working with him this summer on a another NSF-funded project that attempts to develop ways to convert cheap, abundant chemicals from petroleum into more valuable molecules. This project, which concludes in August 2014, has resulted in three publications with ten student co-authors.

Research on the new project will result in interim reports to the NSF and hopefully culminate in academic publications by Chianese and his student researchers.

Chianese spoke to the importance of this grant, saying that “it’s how I do everything I should be doing as a professor. It allows me to train students to become scientists and continue to grow as a scholar myself.”

For Chianese, his research has two components – the intellectual side of the science and its applications. In the contemporary search for renewable energy sources, the federal funding for this project will allow him to “push the boundaries of knowledge and in this particular case, the goal is to develop something that’s useful to society.”