Professor of chemistry Scott Hartley wins $742K grant award from the US Department of Energy

photo of Scott HartleyThe U.S. Department of Energy has awarded professor of chemistry Scott Hartley a three-year grant of $742,000 for him to conduct research on specific chemical compounds, carbodiimides, used in "nonequilibrium" chemical systems.

"Many of the most interesting and important processes in nature require the expenditure of energy," Hartley said. "For example, chemical fuels, like adenosine triphosphate (ATP), are used to drive important functions in living systems, such as the molecular-level processes involved in muscle contraction.

"These "dissipative" systems, which make use of energy input, enable a variety of responsive behaviors, including adaptation, self-healing, and replication, that would be of great value in smart materials but are challenging for chemists to design.

Hartley's research, "Dissipative Assembly of Carboxylic Acid Anhydrides for Nonequilibrium Systems Chemistry," seeks to develop straightforward chemical tools that can be used in nonbiological chemical systems in a manner analogous to ATP hydrolysis in biochemistry.

"The goal of this project is to develop chemistry that can be used by us and other chemists to build new kinds of molecular machines and other nonequilibrium systems," Hartley said. "Over the next few years, we plan to explore how we can cause molecules to twist into strained geometries or assemble into complex species that exist for only a short while before decomposing back to their components. These simple processes are the fundamental components of much more complex behavior."

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