Three UNT Chemistry Researchers Receive Major NSF Grant | College of Science
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July 12, 2021

Three UNT Chemistry Researchers Receive Major NSF Grant

Three UNT Chemistry professors, Drs. Thomas Cundari, Francis D'Souza and Jeffry Kelber, have received a National Science Foundation grant to investigate fundamental chemical interactions relevant to the conversion of dinitrogen to ammonia via more energy-efficient routes. The award is for $498,943 over three years. The initial research that led to the NSF grant was funded by seed grants from the UNT College of Science, Chemistry Department, and the office of the Vice President for Research and Innovation at the University of North Texas.

"The goal of our research project is to discover new ways to make ammonia, an important agricultural chemical, as it is used in making fertilizers," said Dr. Cundari. "The novelty of our method lies in the use of a multi-disciplinary approach to the research, as well as the training of the students involved."

The major techniques include electrochemistry (D'Souza group), surface spectroscopy (Kelber group) and computational chemistry (Cundari group).

Ammonia production is vital to agriculture, but is currently produced by an energy-intensive process that also produces significant amounts of CO2. Electrocatalysis is an energetically and environmentally friendly alternative for production of ammonia, and for making other products sustainably for a clean environment.

Involved student researchers will learn a wide range of experimental and computational skills while they study Earth-abundant transition metal oxides and oxynitrides, as these materials are leading catalysts for synthesis of ammonia from dinitrogen, which comprises 78% of Earth's atmosphere. The studies will help to understand the chemical and material factors that are most important for optimizing catalysts for ammonia production from dinitrogen, and also applications to other important industrial reactions.

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