Chemical Engineering PhD student, James Akinola recently received the overall best graduate student poster presentation sponsored by Colgate-Palmolive at the 49th annual National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers (NOBCChE) conference in Orlando, Florida.
Akinola, a member of the Singh Lab and lead experimentalist, won the award for his poster “Increasing the rate of electrocatalytic hydrogenation of phenol on PtxCoy core-shell catalysts through lowering the hydrogen binding energy,” which was a joint project between the Singh and Goldsmith Laboratories demonstrating potential to reduce the cost of upgrading bio-oil.
“I feel very honored to receive an award from a national organization for the science I do in Chemical Engineering at the University of Michigan,” Akinola said. “I want to thank the NOBCChE organizing committee for putting together an amazing series of talks and technical sessions and also the award committee for this very great honor.”
Akinola initiated the research and steered the direction of the experiments conducted during the process, computational aspects of the work were led by Isaiah Barth in the Goldsmith group and additional collaborators included Dow Corning Assistant Professor Bryan Goldsmith and Assistant Professor Nirala Singh, the principal investigators of the computational and experimental group that conducted the research.
Akinola and collaborators synthesized alloy nanoparticles of Pt and Co (PtxCoy) directly on carbon supports and characterized the catalysts using x-ray diffraction, x-ray absorption spectroscopy and inductively coupled mass spectrometry to determine alloy formation, composition and particle size.
The group used electricity to perform a chemical transformation of phenol, a prototypical bio-oil compound for upgrading bio-oils to fuels and green chemicals, using these alloy catalysts to determine their activity. Their findings show that the hydrogenation activity is dependent on the Co fraction through a weakened hydrogen binding energy as well as the applied potential, showing competition between the catalyst and electricity cost for upgrading bio-oil. The project demonstrates potential to reduce the cost of upgrading bio-oil by modifying catalyst or controlling the potential of the nanoparticles.
Over 250 poster presentations were given at the NOBCChE conference, giving attendees the opportunity to learn about work from a diverse group of researchers from partnering school districts, municipalities, businesses, universities and other organizations in the public and private sectors.
NOBCChE aims to build an eminent cadre of successful diverse global leaders and advance their professional endeavors by adding value to their academic, development, leadership and philanthropic endeavors throughout the life-cycle of their careers in science, technology and engineering fields.
“I am led to emphasize that we do science because of passion and not for the awards,” Akinola said. “I left Orlando very inspired and excited to return next year to celebrate NOBCChE’s 50th anniversary.”