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Jonathan Kephart

Solid-state catalysts are robust and recyclable, hence their use in industrial processes. However, their ill-defined surface structure complicates the optimization of their reactivity, selectivity, or catalytic efficiency. Next-generation nanocatalysts built from molecular components may combine the enhanced durability of heterogeneous systems with the fine-control and tunability inherent to molecular coordination complexes. This will grant access to solid-state architectures with discrete, programmable active sites. To approach this challenge, I’ve developed synthetic methods to prepare propeller-shaped M3Co6Se8 building blocks (M = Fe, Mn, Co). These versatile clusters feature coordinatively unsaturated surface metal ions (M) and exhibit variable electronic, magnetic and catalytic properties. I will study the self-assembly of M3Co6Se8 clusters to yield extended solid-state frameworks with atomic precision. Additionally, I will probe inter-cluster communication using electro- and magneto-chemical techniques to observe emergent cooperative properties. Ultimately, the resulting frameworks will be tested and optimized as nanocatalysts for small molecule activation and transformation.

Advisor: Alexandra Velian – Chemistry