Chemistry Professors Land ACS Grants For Research

Vanessa McCaffrey and Kevin Metz, a pair of young chemistry professors at Albion College, have each received $50,000 grants from the American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund (ACS-PRF) to cover the start-up costs of their laboratories.

The ACS-PRF award is presented to faculty members who are in the first three years of a tenure-track position. The award is used to assist with projects that the ACS-PRF Advisory Board believes have the promise for sustainable funding.

McCaffrey, an organic chemist who came to Albion as a visiting professor in 2003 and was added to the tenure-track in 2005, is researching magnetic exchange in small metallic complexes. Her research has implications in magnetic storage devices and magnetic motors.

"Traditional recording media rely on materials such as metals or metal oxides for their bulk magnetic properties," McCaffrey writes. "The presence of millions of atoms...creates magnetic domains capable of storing information. However, as you shrink recording media there comes a point where they are no longer magnetic and we are fast approaching this size limit. If we as consumers are going to continue to demand smaller and smaller storage devices, new technologies must be developed to create magnetic materials that overcome this size barrier."

Metz, an analytical chemist, is looking for new ways to fabricate nanoscale catalysts, which could be used to remove pollutants from the environment. He believes his work is particularly well-suited for Albion since "the College has listed sustainability as one of the key pillars in its vision." He hopes to engage students in his research.

Metz will spend the next two years trying to synthesize nanoparticles directly onto a support substrate. Once in place these particles can lower the energy needed for a variety of reactions, with applications ranging from energy production to environmental remediation. The challenge in Metz's research is the size scale associated with the particles. The desired particle size is 10 billionths of a meter in diameter.