Hibbitts Awarded a Critical Aspects of Sustainability Collaborative Research Grant

David Hibbitts, Ph.D.

David Hibbitts, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering (ChE), is leading a three-year, $672,000 grant from the National Science Foundation from the Chemistry Division titled: Separating Electronic and Geometric Effects in Compound Catalysts: Examining Unique Selectivities for Hydrogenolysis on Transition Metal Phosphides.

In this project, Dr. Hibbitts will collaborate with David Flaherty, Ph.D., (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign), and Craig Plaisance, Ph.D., (Louisiana State University) to understand the fundamental behavior of metal compound catalysts with an initial focus on metal phosphide materials.

“The conversion of biomass, shale, and petroleum feedstocks into value-added fuels and chemicals currently requires costly and rare metal catalysts to speed up the chemical reactions,” Dr. Hibbitts said. “Combining rare metals with less expensive and more earth abundant catalysts is a major challenge to materials chemists and engineers.”

This project will focus on understanding how these inexpensive elements alter the behavior of rare precious metal catalysts, using a combination of quantum chemistry calculations and spectroscopic techniques.

Dr. Hibbitts directs the Hibbitts Catalysis Lab, which works to understand catalysts at the molecular level by combining kinetic and isotopic experiments with computational chemistry. The lab develops atomic-level understanding of heterogeneous catalysts usingexperiments and density functional theory calculations to develop structure-function relationships critical to the development of new catalysts and chemical processes.