Chemistry of the Environment
Just as chemistry determines the state of the human organism, so it is with the biosphere. The department is committed to developing technologies that will improve and maintain environmental health.
We have developed a “cradle-to-cradle” process that converts methane to versatile, biodegradable plastics. Additionally, we are deeply involved in the advancement of environmental remediation technologies, including the engineering of microbes that consume chloroethenes (a class of highly stable pollutants), promising greatly enhanced bioremediation at contaminated sites.
Finally, much of our work in the Chemistry of the Environment dovetails with our research in the production of renewable energy and sustainable resources. That includes the conversion of CO2 — a problematic greenhouse gas — to valuable and earth-friendly products. We are creating catalysts for the conversion of CO2 to hydrocarbon fuels and chemicals, developing catalytically active hydrogen and methanol oxidants for fuel cells from cheap and abundant materials, and engineering microbes to produce fuels from electricity and CO2.