Chemical Engineering Assistant Professor Receives Award for Perovskite Research

By:    Brandon Pytel
Date: June 6, 2018

Assistant professor of chemical engineering Jingjie Wu, PhD, recently received the ORAU Ralph E. Powe Faculty Enhancement Award for his research exploring layered perovskites as catalysts for chemical synthesis.

Wu headshot

UC assistant professor of chemical engineering Jingjie Wu, PhD, researches using perovskites as catalysts.

Perovskite may not sound like a household name, but it’s actually one of Earth’s most common minerals. Perovskite makes up 38 percent of Earth’s entire mass – you just don’t hear about it much because most of it is buried thousands of miles under the planet’s surface.

University of Cincinnati (UC) assistant professor of chemical engineering Jingjie Wu, PhD, is fascinated by the practical applications of perovskite. Wu recently received the Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU) Ralph E. Powe Faculty Enhancement Award for his proposal, “Developing the Design Principles of Layered Perovskites Catalysts for Chemical Synthesis.”

The award is a one-year grant with $5,000 provided by ORAU and another $5,000 provided by UC. Over the next year, Wu will collaborate with the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, to complete the research project.

“The research will aim to develop a new class of catalysts,” said Wu. “We will use this new class to study different chemical activations and reactions using perovskite.”

Perovskite may not seem relevant to you or me, but to scientists and engineers, this mineral is the cornerstone for cutting-edge research. As a semi-conductor, perovskite presents fascinating possibilities, and its abundancy makes research and development inexpensive. Researchers are exploring applications of perovskite in technologies like solar panels, television screens and LED lights.

Perovskite’s unique makeup also makes it one of nature’s most flexible minerals – scientists can easily alter perovskite's electronic and crystal structure to fit research and industry needs.

Wu plans to use this unique makeup to drive chemical processes.

black-yellow perovskite rock.

Perovskite is a common mineral studied by scientists and engineers.

Layered perovskite has a structural formula of A2BO4, meaning perovskites are composed of two metal elements (A and B) and oxygen. As Wu adjusts the properties of the A-site metal, the B-site changes accordingly.

“There are abundant opportunities to tune the electronic structure of perovskite,” said Wu. “That’s the beauty of it.”

By intentionally altering its structure, Wu hopes to use perovskite as a catalyst to drive chemical reactions in processes like fuel or gas conversion. For this research, he is focusing on one compound in particular: isopropanol.

Isopropanol (C3H8O) can be converted into propylene through dehydration (the removal of water) or acetone through dehydrogenation (the removal of hydrogen). If Wu can show that perovskite can act as a catalyst to activate these changes, then perovskite may be fundamental in driving other types of chemical reactions that involve similar bond activation.

Thanks to the collaboration between UC and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, perovskite may soon replace other catalysts as a better, cheaper option for sparking important chemical processes.