[Researcher of the Month] Opening a New Method to Save the Environment through Discovering a Nanocatalyst
Professor Kim Jong-ho (Department of Materials Science and Chemical Engineering)
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The Department of Materials Science and Chemical Engineering is divided into 5 different sub majors, such as Nano Technology, Bio Technology, Information Technology, and Environment & Energy Technology. Overall, it deals with discovering and creating new materials, which are related to various industries throughout the world. Professor Kim Jong-ho, researching at Hanyang University NanoChemistry Lab at ERICA Campus, has recently discovered a method of substance production and functionalization during his research.
Professor Kim uncovered a new method to compose a multifunctional nanocatalyst called PdO@WO₃ and the according substance. PdO@WO₃ has never been reported in the academic world and it also serves a perfect role as both a light photocatalyst and an electrocatalyst.
The material that Professor Kim has discovered is formed through the direct conversion of a PdO nanocluster that has a catalyst function and an ultrathin 2D tungsten oxide (WO₃) nanosheets. This newly found nanosheet serves as a light photocatalyst that converts light energy into chemical energy, while also effectively initiating C-C coupling reactions. PdO@WO₃ can also be used as an electrocatalyst as mentioned above.
It is viewed that PdO@WO₃ can be used as a new tool to reduce environmental problems. For example, many medical supplies and medicines such as anticancer drugs go through C-C coupling reactions to be produced. This chain reaction requires a light photocatalyst action of a chemical element called palladium (Pd). The action is usually initiated by mixing palladium into a solution, which makes the material almost impossible to recover after mixing. However, when using the new method created by Professor Kim, the solution becomes a heterogeneous mixture, thus allowing the recovery of the nanomaterial that still maintains the functionality as a catalyst. Palladium is one of the rare-earth materials, known for having a higher price than gold. The ability to use this material again would drop the unit price of the medical supplies and medicines greatly. Moreover, it would also help to improve our natural environment, because the mining of such materials is one of the great factors of environmental destruction.
PdO@WO₃ can also be used for creating a next-generation battery to replace the existing lithium-ion battery. The lithium-ion battery has an explosion hazard and low efficiency, which is currently used the most in electronic cars. The demand for the next-generation battery, especially the ones such as the metal-air battery is increasing more than ever. The zinc-air battery that is created through the cathode electrochemical catalyst function of PdO@WO₃ has higher energy density, with no possibility of any explosion hazard. When the zinc-air battery technology becomes commercialized, developing electric cars that can replace cars with an internal combustion engine is expected to become much easier than before.
The discovery of Professor Kim (Thesis title: ‘Ultrathin WO3 Nanosheets Converted from Metallic WS2 Sheets by Spontaneous Formation and Deposition of PdO Nanoclusters for Visible Light-Driven C-C Coupling Reactions') was made possible through the failure of separate research. In the beginning, PdO@WO₃ was simply a byproduct of an experiment with another purpose. However, Professor Kim did not stop after faced with the failure. Instead, he thoroughly analyzed the result and continued various experiments on the newly created material. In the end, Professor Kim redefined the byproduct as a catalyst, after establishing a new method of conversion of the material.
Professor Kim stated, “I discovered a new scientific knowledge from the result of an experiment that I thought of as a failure. I also want the students of Hanyang University to not be afraid of the result and to gain new knowledge within it.” The research took a total of two long years; one that ended up with the failed result of the former experiment, the other spent on analyzing and establishing PdO@WO₃.
The NanoBio Chemistry Lab of Hanyang University, where Professor Kim's research was done, has continued its studies on creating eco-friendly nanocatalyst material. Professor Kim gained the original patent on the conversion method of PdO@WO₃ and published the work on a scientific journal. He is now considering the publication of how PdO@WO₃ can be applied and used for the metal-air battery.
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