April 27, 2016
Graduate Student Yuxiang Chen Receives Award from the International Precious Metals Institute
By Amy Pavlak Laird
Chemistry Ph.D. candidate Yuxiang Chen received the Gemini Industries Graduate Student Award from the International Precious Metals Institute (IPMI), the largest and most well-known association focused on precious metals. The award, sponsored by Gemini Industries, recognizes and encourages precious metal-related work by advanced students. Chen will be presented with the award at the IPMI’s 40th annual conference in June.
Working in the laboratory of Chemistry Professor Rongchao Jin, Chen synthesizes and examines the structure of gold nanoclusters that contain tens to hundreds of gold atoms. Such gold nanoclusters are a promising technology that has applications in a wide range of fields including catalysis, electronics, materials science and health care.
Chen is devising ways to systematically control the size of nanoclusters to produce specific types with a “magic number” of gold atoms. These so-called magic sizes are extremely stable and thus very desirable. Chen developed a new, creative method of controlling nanocluster size by engineering the gold-sulfur interfacial bond, a discovery that Jin says “adds a new dimension to the precise synthesis of nanoclusters.” Using this technique, Chen created three different magic-sizes of gold nanoclusters—Au130, Au104 and Au40. He also determined the atomic structures of two of them. Deciphering the total structure of gold nanoclusters is critical for understanding their novel properties as well as the origin of their catalytic power. Chen is investigating the structure-catalytic property relationships, which will ultimately contribute to the rational design of new catalysts for industrial chemical processes.