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Western Kentucky University

Current WKU Research

This page highlights some of the current faculty and student research at WKU utilizing AMI facilities.

  • Dr. Aaron Celestian is a mineralogist interested in Earth materials, material synthesis, and the determination of atomic arrangements in condensed matter. A primary goal of his research efforts is to quantify the mobility and reaction mechanisms of molecular species in, on, and around natural and engineered materials in a wide variety of environmental, geological, and planetary applications. Molecular scale processes are the basis for macroscopic properties, and understanding the controls of those processes will lead to new discoveries of molecular interactions and the development of new materials.

In order to determine how materials behave under environmental conditions, Dr. Celestian and his group develop custom experimental cells that allow real-time studies to be performed in situ under extreme environmental conditions (pH, temperature, pressure, etc.). For more information please visit http://www.wku.edu/~aaron.celestian/, or contact Aaron via email or telephone at (270)745-5977.

  • Dr. Hemali Rathnayake is interested in design, synthesis and characterization of chiral macromolecules and organic-inorganic hybrid nanostructures of interest in supramolecular chemistry and materials science. Our goal is to understand fundamental concepts of organic polymer-based photovoltaics. Critically, we seek to understand the morphology and assembly of these materials within the active layer. We will explore the effectiveness of chiral molecules and functionalized nanohybrids as electronically active materials towards achieving high efficiency organic based solar cells.
  • Dr. Donald Slocum and Dr. Paul Whitley are interested in converting solvent systems for the ortho-lithiation reaction from ether media to catalyzed hydrocarbon media. As part of this overall research interest they are working on the following

    - Find conditions for adapting each arene-DMG system to such media.

    - Develop new derivatization protocols.

    - Develop new DMG’s suitable for hydrocarbon media.

    - Develop media/metalating strategies that permit survival of substituents.

    - To adapt the SynthetronTM Microreactor to the rigors of strong base chemistry.

    - Develop safe, green, and atom-economical protocols for strong base reactions.

  • Dr. Rui Zhang’s research involves developing sustainable, “green” and selective oxidation catalysis via highly reactive metal-oxo species. The specific objective is to develop a photo-catalytic procedure for organic oxidations using only atmospheric oxygen and visible light (sunlight). The use of molecular oxygen and solar light in oxidative catalysis is particularly relevant to realizing innovative and economically advantageous processes for conversion of hydrocarbons into oxygenates and, at the same time, to move toward a “sustainable chemistry” that has a minimal environmental impact. The target transient oxidant for the photo-catalytic procedure is the ruthenium(V)-oxo or iron(V)-oxo species that are highly reactive oxidant for a wide range of oxidations. 

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 Last Modified 9/25/14