Senior biochemistry major publishes findings which could improve fuel cell efficiency

Jason Kopec, a senior biochemistry major, has published a paper in the journal Inorganic Chemistry detailing research conducted in the laboratory of Seth Brown, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry. Kopec is first author on the paper, Molybdenum(VI) Complexes of a 2,2'-Biphenyl-bridged Bis(amidophenoxide):  Competition Between Metal-Ligand and Metal-Amidophenoxide π Bonding; the other authors are Sukesh Shekar and Brown.

The paper's primary focus is a molybdenum complex lab-created two years ago by Kopec and Brown, who have since been working to characterize its chemical properties and reactivity. This complex, and similar novel compounds synthesized by the same researchers, may function as electrocatalysts. After further study, they could be used to improve the efficiency of fuel cells, which are currently technologically limited by the significant amount of energy required to break and form the various chemical bonds needed to produce current. A more efficient catalyst could break through this limit, but to develop it from a complex like this one requires a thorough understanding of the complex's reactivity.

Once the chemistry of these molybdenum structures is fully understood, the researchers can optimize their reactivity to make them effective catalysts, allowing them to react, regenerate their active conformations, and react again.

Kopec has been conducting research in the Brown laboratory since his sophomore year. During the summer of 2011, he was one of over 40 students funded by the College of Science's Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship program (SURF), which provides funding for sophomore and junior undergraduate researchers to work with Notre Dame faculty and affiliated institutions.