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Everhart Lecture

Tuesday, May 24, 2016
5:00pm to 6:00pm
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Guggenheim 133 (Lees-Kubota Lecture Hall)
Challenging the Precious Metal Mindset: Green Chemistry with Potassium
Anton Toutov, Graduate Student, Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, Caltech,

In the present day, approximately 90% of consumer goods (from gasoline to iPhone components) are manufactured with the help of catalysts – substances able to dramatically accelerate chemical reactions. In particular, specialty chemicals like medicines, liquid crystals, and agrochemicals are sufficiently sensitive and complex that they must be produced using sophisticated, low temperature processes. Generally, this requires the use of catalysts containing precious metals (i.e., Pd, Pt, Ru, Rh, Ir, Ag, and Au) in the manufacturing process. These ultra-rare elements are expensive to mine and process, are steadily rarefying, and are essentially non-renewable.

In stark contrast, living organisms use Earth-abundant elements (e.g., Fe, Mg, Ca) to catalyze the complex chemistry driving crucial biological processes (e.g., Photosynthesis). Inspired, by Nature's approach, we have shown that a material based on potassium can drive challenging chemical reactions previously believed to only be catalyzed by precious metals. This Everhart lecture will explore the implications of these findings, highlight the people and events involved, and investigate how this discovery could enable a more sustainable chemicals industry in the future.

Refreshments available prior to the lecture.

The Everhart Lecture Series is a forum encouraging interdisciplinary interaction among graduate students and faculty, the sharing of ideas about research developments, as well as a space to discuss controversies.  Everhart Lectures allow for the recognition of individual Caltech student's exemplary presentation and research abilities.  Lecturers discuss scientific topics and research topics of concern to graduate students and faculty.

Each Fall, graduate student lecturers are selected to present their ideas as part of a series of lectures.

For more information, please contact Constantine Sideris by phone at (626) 395-6346 or by email at [email protected].