Awards Database

Cottrell College Science Awards - 2015

John P. Lee

University of Tennessee, Chattanooga

Acrylic Acid From CO2 and Ethylene Catalyzed by Cyclopentadienyl-Co(III) with Bidentate N-Heterocyclic Carbene Ligands that Contain a Bridging Amine

Acrylic acid is a very useful chemical in the manufacture of plastics, adhesives, elastomers, floor polish and paint. Every year global industries reportedly use more than a thousand kilotons of the stuff.

John P. Lee, assistant professor of chemistry at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, has received a Cottrell College Science Award from Research Corporation for Science Advancement to use various forms of the relatively common element cobalt to catalyze the production of acrylic acid from carbon dioxide in a process called “hydroethenation.” It involves employing the new catalysts he is proposing to create, which will donate electrons to raise the energy state of the chemical ethylene, causing its molecules to bond more readily with CO2. End result – acrylic acid.

“There has been a significant amount of effort directed toward using carbon dioxide as a source for chemical building blocks,” Lee noted. If he and his students can successful develop inexpensive cobalt catalysts that convert CO2 to more valuable chemical feedstocks and end products such as acrylic acid, these efforts may be greatly enhanced.

Lee has designed the project to provide research training for UT undergraduate students. And he also plans to involve students from Chattanooga State Community College.

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