Murdock Grant to fund next-generation science at WSU

By Will Ferguson, College of Arts & Sciences

PULLMAN, Wash. – A car battery that gets you from Pullman to Seattle on a single charge. Flexible electronics that can be sewn into clothing. An affordable transportation fuel made from hydrogen and carbon monoxide. Washington State University researchers are a big step closer to making these futuristic technologies a reality thanks to a $521,800 grant from the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust.

The grant will help purchase X-ray and UV photoelectron spectroscopy instruments found nowhere else in the Pacific Northwest.

The first instrument will be installed in the Department of Chemistry’s surface analysis lab in October. K.W. Hipps, chemistry chair, will use it to study the chemical composition and reactivity of new kinds of nanostructures that have potential for application in solar cells, light emitting diodes and chemical sensors.

“This improved understanding will be used to design new structures that will provide industrial materials that function better than current silicon based devices,” Hipps said.

The second instrument is expected to arrive in the fall and will be housed in the Voiland School of Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering. It will help WSU researchers investigate the mechanisms of catalytic reactions and test materials and devices in the environments where they will be required to function.

“One of our present research topics is to produce gasoline or diesel fuels catalytically from two simple gases, hydrogen and carbon monoxide, under environmentally friendly conditions,” said Norbert Kruse, Voiland distinguished professor. “The possibility of producing a range of important chemical products from only two gases is most fascinating, and the two photoelectron spectrometers will help develop the respective nanosized catalysts.”

The Murdock grant will help WSU faculty attract lucrative new grants and top-notch young faculty and graduate students.

“We anticipate that this equipment will allow us to perform hitherto unimagined research funded by the federal government and industry and to develop new technologies that will fuel the economy,” said James Petersen, director of the Voiland School.