to the performance of the catalyst, researchers lack tools
to precisely control this atomic arrangement, he said.
The zeolite crystals are produced with gels – heated
under pressure – that contain silicon, aluminum
and other additives. Gounder has developed
characterization methods in previous work that allow
rapid quantification of the number of paired aluminum
sites in the crystal framework. His new CAREER project
strives to take the research a step further by controlling
the distribution of aluminum sites in zeolites using the
“charge density” of these gels.
“The idea is that, in the synthesis gel medium to
crystallize the zeolite you can change how the charges
are distributed to increase the density of aluminum
atoms in the lattice,” Gounder said.
Although the project focuses on automotive
applications, the largest market share for zeolite
catalysts is in petroleum refineries.
“Our idea with this proposal is that if we can
understand how to synthesize the material with
desired formulations and properties, we might be able
to change the way petroleum refining is done today,”
His grant totals $517,024 over five years.
The research will be linked with educational and
mentoring initiatives in the STEM areas for students at
all levels. Graduate students will have opportunities to
engage in multi-institution collaborative research in
nitrogen-oxide abatement, to mentor undergraduate
and K- 12 students in research, and to plan and
participate in K- 12 outreach events. Undergraduate
students will learn about the research in coursework,
and the project will involve students from traditionally
underrepresented groups in STEM fields. The work also
will include outreach events with Purdue’s Women in
Engineering program and the Purdue Energy Center;
Purdue Project SEED (http://www.purdueprojectseed.
org), hosted by the American Chemical Society; the
Undergraduate Research Experience at Purdue-Colombia (UREP-C) program, administered by the
Colombia Purdue Institute; and a pilot program called
Nexo Global, which brings students from Colombia to
Purdue to study engineering and science.
The NSF CAREER Award is a Foundation-wide activity
that offers the National Science Foundation's most
prestigious awards in support of junior faculty who
exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through
outstanding research, excellent education and the
integration of education and research within the
context of the mission of their organizations.
Assistant Professor Raj Gounder talks with elementary school students during a Catalysis Center outreach event.