NSF grant secured by MSU chemistry faculty member for synthetic fuel research

Contact: Sarah Nicholas

Studio portrait of Charles Edwin Webster
Charles Edwin Webster (Photo by Megan Bean)

STARKVILLE, Miss.—A National Science Foundation award worth $712,000 will support a Mississippi State chemistry professor’s research as he works toward the goals of reducing greenhouse gases and producing synthetic fuels by capturing energy from sunlight.

Charles Edwin Webster, professor and associate head of the chemistry department, is collaborating with Elizabeth Papish of the University of Alabama and Jared Delcamp of the University of Mississippi on the three-year grant titled “Collaborative Research: Macrocyclic and Supramolecular Pincer Catalysts Using Ruthenium and First Row Metals for Carbon Dioxide Reduction.”

“Using sunlight to create fuels as stored chemical energy on demand is attractive relative to our current fossil fuel reliant infrastructure,” said Dennis W. Smith Jr., chemistry professor and department head. “Envisioning a sunlight-driven energy infrastructure requires efficient and robust catalysts that can power artificial photosynthesis reactions for fuel production.”

Smith said the work requires fast, durable and selective catalysts to “ideally utilize readily available and affordable metals where feasible.”

“We can use the sun to take carbon dioxide and make fuels for our energy needs,” Webster said. “Using sunlight to create fuels as stored chemical energy available on demand is an ultimate goal.”

Webster said he is working to capture carbon dioxide and develop it into usable fuels the same way green plants naturally utilize photosynthesis to capture energy from sunlight to synthesize carbohydrates and foods from carbon dioxide and water.

“We want to develop and study man-made materials that are more efficient than those found in nature to use sunlight to power these artificial photochemically driven reactions,” he said.

Webster received the prestigious NSF Career Award in 2009, and is the recipient of a 2016 MSU College of Arts and Sciences Research Award. Learn more about his work at https://www.chemistry.msstate.edu/people/faculty/charles-edwin-webster/.

Part of MSU’s College of Arts and Sciences, more information about the Department of Chemistry is available at www.chemistry.msstate.edu.

MSU is Mississippi’s leading university, available online at www.msstate.edu.