Molecule-based Mesoscopic Magnetic Materials
Molecular magnetic materials have been of interest since they find applications in high density information storage. Modern technologies not only need to be small in size, but also more and more powerful. Molecular materials because of their size satisfy the first requirement; the fact that they display both classical and quantum properties makes them potentially useful for quantum computation. For this reason, our group has been interested in single molecule magnets (SMMs). SMMs are a class of compounds in which the magnetic properties are intrinsic to the molecules and not due to interspin interactions, as in transitional magnets. We are working at the interplay of chemistry and physics, as we both synthesize the materials, and we extensively characterize them with various physical methods and spectroscopes (X-ray crystallography, magnetometry, High Field EMR, solid state NMR, electrochemistry, fluorescence, and TGA/DSC.
Photoelectrical Chemical Sensors (PECS) are a technology capable of sensing a variety of analytes, widely varying from warfare agents, heavy metals, to volatile organics, and solutions of ultra low concentrations. The photoexcitation of the sensing material or the analyte recognition compound (ARC), coincides with (energetically matches) the excitation of the analyte, which leads to sensing properties. The sensor's signal is in the form of modified photovoltages (PVs). This technology can be easily miniaturized to fit in shirt pockets, and can be used for continuous or remote sensing. Our group has been working on the development of customized ARCs, since specificity of analyte and ARC pairs is of vital importance. Molecular chemistry allowed us to change the ARCs in many different ways, which in turn changes the surface chemistry of the material; the latter could potentially lead to an ARC made specific for a certain analyte.
Coordination & Cluster Chemistry
Coordination complexes and transition metal clusters have been investigated for modeling metalloproteins, such as nitrogenase, ferritin, the water oxidizing complex in photosystem II, and others. In addition, several clusters have exhibited SMM behavior, and they have been proposed for molecular refrigerants, and molecular switches. In recent years, small clusters and coordination complexes have been used as building blocks for the construction of metal organic frameworks (MOFs), which are extended systems capable of storing gases, and performing catalysis. We have been interested in the area of coordination and cluster chemistry for a combination of these reasons, i.e. because we aspire to make hybrid materials. The latter are materials capable of displaying two or more different properties, such as magnetic and conducting, magnetic and photoswitching, magnetic and catalytic, and magnetic and gas storage properties.
Virtual Environment for Chemical Education And Experiential Learning
Science education lacks technologies targeting virtual experiential learning and informal training. Via a close collaboration with leading experts in computer science and virtual reality gurus, we are developing a platform technology for the delivery of virtual safety training, lab technique training, as well as instrument training. Such a technology will be module-based and the user will be using a Natural User Interface (NUI) to interact with the system, i.e. gestures and body language. The pedagogical value of this system stems from its wide applicability to all STEM disciplines, as well as because it can easily incorporate animations and videos, allowing the users to relate macroscopic observations to microscopic events at the molecular level, thus helping them understand.