(6ar) Catalysis Reactions towards Advanced Energy Applications

Authors: 
Padhye, R., Texas Tech University

Research Experience:

                Optimizing
reactive efficiencies of particles that possess catalytic properties proves to
be a source of major interest from the perspective of generating energy.
Energetic materials can be tailored for intended applications through such
enhanced surface characteristics. These enhancements can be achieved through
simple techniques such as improving the hydration layer around reactant
materials and thereby adding to their polarities. This change in polarity is
known to boost their thermal properties adding to the energy released during
the process of combustion. Simulation models for such structured crystals
proves that bonds are affected by the polar nature of the environment particles
are subjected to by altering their bond distances, atomic charges and
stretching frequencies due to polar and hydrogen bonding forces. It would prove
to be greatly beneficial if highly functionalized reactive materials could be
developed for generating more effective energetic/ thermitic composites. Figures
1. a. and b.  capture the idea of functionalized surface of actively polar
molecules and the pronounced effect observed on their reactive output.

a.                                                                                                            b.

 a. Surface functionalization of alumina shell surrounding aluminum particles. b. Oxidizing agents can also be catalyzed similar to Al particles.

Research Interests:

Despite
having a background in Mechanical Engineering, my research entails a lot of
inputs from Chemical Engineering and Chemistry. I work with energetic
compositions, with a focus on aluminum as a fuel. My dissertation has been
inspired by the curious finding that the mere presence of polar media around
polarized compounds like the passivating alumina shell in the fuel crystal can
do wonders to improve its thermal behavior under fluorination. Through the
understanding of results obtained off the Differential Scanning Calorimetry, I
observed that the enthalpy of reaction could be increased significantly when
water from the solution affects the reactant particle surface as against when a
non-polar medium containing no trace of water was used for suspending these
particles. Fourier Transform Infrared spectroscopy enabled me to detect the
actually augmented hydration layer at the particle interface.  I am also
trained to handle a Hitachi S4300 Scanning Electron Microscope – to look at the
homogeneity of dispersion matrix. Even with this hand-on experience using such
highly precise instrumentation; it is extremely difficult to gauge interactions
taking place at the molecular level. This brings the need for me to collaborate
with Chemists who specialize in performing ab initio calculations. Exposure to
this area of research added depth to my understanding of chemical kinetics from
an entirely unique perspective.

                Through my
knowledge of catalysis and catalysts used in various processes, I would want to
focus on its applicability towards understanding basic molecular reactions and
surface properties towards producing greener and cleaner fuels by maximizing
conversion efficiency. Engineered materials that could be used as adsorbents
and catalysts in fuel cells could effectively be used to improve their
performance efficacy. Zeolites that are used in ion – exchange beds for water
purification and softening can be improved for their efficiency in attracting
dirt and minerals by polarizing catalysts to act as electromagnets.
Understanding of catalysts through ab initio calculations helps me predict the
nature of bonds affected by the hydrogen bonding forces to alter crystal
structures when exposed to various environments. This information leads to the
ability to tailor materials for suited applications.

                In other
collaborative simulation efforts, I would like to focus my attention on
deriving intermediate reactions taking place which are studied in calorimetric
techniques such as the DSC. From this data generated, it would be easier to
predict which pathways any reaction mechanism could possibly take enabling us
to better concentrate on the most desirable results from these reactions.

Teaching Experience:

                I have
experience teaching the undergraduate Heat Transfer and Combustion courses for
Mechanical Engineering juniors and seniors respectively. I have been actively
involved in mentoring masters’ students in our research group where we evolve
in an extremely symbiotic atmosphere.

                I have found
that it always important to keep students engaged through interactions so they
develop more interest in what they are learning and in return take back much
more than they would have. I like getting feedback from them as to how they
were following what I am trying to convey in my lectures. It is really
necessary for me to make classes increasingly interesting so students have the
motivation to attend each class with equal zeal.

                I prefer to
start my classes with a short review of the previous lecture and put those in
the form of points on the board so they retain what we talked about and then
gradually introduce the day’s topics. I think it is very important to grab the
students’ attention in the initial few minutes. I try to include a very
relatable example for every concept so students understand its applicability. I
try to involve the class in a discussion of the concept involved.

Proposal:

                Submitted a
grant proposal to the Army Research Office on the topic: ‘Energetic Materials’
(PI: Dr. Michelle L. Pantoya).

Ph.D. Dissertation:

‘Altering
surface properties toward enhanced aluminum reactivity’

Supervised by Dr. Michelle L.
Pantoya, J. W. Wright Regents Endowed Chair Professor, Department of Mechanical
Engineering, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX – 79409, USA

 

Publications:

    Examining Hydroxyl – Alumina Bonding Toward Al Nanoparticle Reactivity; Padhye, R.; McCollum, J.; Korzeniewski, C. L.; Pantoya, M.L.; Journal of Physical Chemistry C. 2015, 119(47):26547-53 (DOI: 10.1021/acs.jpcc.5b08408; Publication date: November 17, 2015).
    Effect of Polar Environments on the Aluminum Oxide Shell Surrounding Aluminum Particles: Simulations of Surface Hydroxyl Bonding and Charge; Padhye, R.; Aquino, A. J. A.; Tunega, D.; Pantoya, M. L.; ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces.  2016, 8 (22), pp 13926–13933 (DOI: 10.1021/acsami.6b02665; Publication date: May 13, 2016).
    The Influence of Environmental Processing Conditions on the Reactivity of Aluminum with Various Oxidizing Agents; Padhye, R; Smith, D; Pantoya, M. L. (submitted to Applied Surface Science).

Topics: 

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