The University of Massachusetts Amherst
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Seminar: Levi Thompson, University of Delaware, Title: “Turning Base Metals into Precious Materials: The Fascinating Properties of Nanostructured Early Transition Metal Carbides and Nitrides”

ExxonMobil Lecture


Tuesday, April 5, 2022 - 11:30am


LGRT 201 & via Zoom (email for a link)



The insertion of carbon and nitrogen into the interstitial sites in early transition metals like Mo and V can transform them into materials with properties that resemble those of noble metals like Au and Pt. For example, the catalytic properties of tungsten carbides can be similar to those of Pt, one of the most important catalytic materials known. Nitrides and carbides are also finding applications in energy storage. This talk will describe our understanding of how key reactants like hydrogen interact with these materials as well as their catalytic properties. Interestingly hydrogen in the subsurface can influence the surface catalytic reactions of some nitrides. Because carbides and nitrides can be produced with high surface areas, they are also used to support other catalytic species. The resulting materials can be highly active and selective for cascade reactions of importance for biomass and CO2 conversion. A better understanding of the relevant properties would enable the rational design of carbide and nitride based catalysts for a variety of challenging reactions.



Professor Thompson is Dean of the College of Engineering and Elizabeth Inez Kelley Professor of Chemical Engineering at the University of Delaware. He leads a college of nearly 3,600 students, more than 300 faculty and staff, seven departments and more than a dozen research centers that are addressing some of the world’s most vexing challenges. Professor Thompson earned his B.ChE. from the University of Delaware, and M.S.E. degrees in Chemical Engineering and Nuclear Engineering, and a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Michigan. He was a faculty member at the University of Michigan where he served as Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education, Director of the Hydrogen Energy Technology Laboratory and Director of the Michigan-Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation. His scholarly research on nanostructured materials for catalytic and energy storage applications is described in more than 150 publications and more than 10 patents. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, a Fellow of the AIChE and recipient of awards including the NSF Presidential Young Investigator Award, McBride Distinguished Lectureship, and Michiganian of the Year Award for his research, entrepreneurship, and teaching. He co-founded T/J Technologies, a developer of nanomaterials for advanced batteries that was acquired by A123 Systems, and Inmatech, a developer of low cost, high energy density supercapacitors for automotive and military applications. 

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