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Chemistry Professor’s Photochemical Energy Conversion Research Published


Mount St. Mary’s University Assistant Professor Isaac N. Mills, Ph.D., has been published by the journal Accounts of Chemical Research, a highly respected monthly peer-reviewed scientific journal.

photoreactor.jpgPublished by the American Chemical Society, Accounts of Chemical Research is a leading journal, presenting short, concise and critical articles offering easy-to-read overviews of basic research and applications in all areas of chemistry and biochemistry.

Mills, who joined the Mount’s chemistry faculty in August 2017, is lead coauthor of “Judicious design of cationic, cyclometalated Ir(III) complexes for photochemical energy conversion and optoelectronics,” a paper published in Accounts of Chemical Research on February 20 [51(2):352-364]. The paper reveals that the use of iridium-based complexes for photochemical energy conversion and optoelectronics offers the possibility of solar fuel generation from abundant sources, including zinc, hydrogen and carbon dioxide. “We are making catalysts that turn light into useful energy,” explained Mills, who shared that in addition to fuel generation, this research on photoredox catalysis has possible pharmaceutical and agricultural applications for anti-cancer drugs and herbicides, respectively.

Mills conducted his research for this paper while doing graduate work in the lab of Stefan Bernhard, Ph.D., in the Department of Chemistry at Carnegie Mellon University. Bernhard enjoyed making his own equipment, which inspired Mills to do the same at the Mount. Mills and his two student researchers, Annie Kayser, C’18, and Meagan Suchewski, C’18, made a temperature-controlled photoreactor, which would have cost over $10,000 from a supply company, for $200 to $300 using aluminum bricks, inexpensive LED lights, water pumps, and an aquarium heater among other parts. They have also built microcomputer robots to collect data from hydrogen reactions in the lab, as well as to run some of the other equipment. The instruments that Mills builds typically cost 10 percent of commercially available instrumentation.

In addition to the use of transition metal complexes, such as iridium, in photoredox catalysis, Mills’ current research interests involve the development of photoredox lab exercises and equipment to bring this promising field to less-affluent areas and to universities with small research programs such as the Mount. Mills plans to have five student workers in his lab next year, expanding the number of students who are gaining experience with building instrumentation and learning about photoredox catalysis.

“The type of research Dr. Mills is involved in is critical as we create innovative research and training opportunities for our students and faculty,” said Jennifer Staiger, Ph.D., interim dean of the School of Science and Mathematics. “Our students are fortunate to work side-by-side at the bench with researchers such as Dr. Mills. We are committed to ensuring that our students are prepared not only to enter practice careers but also to advance into research careers and doctoral-level studies.”