When it comes to filtering pollutants out of the air, there are many options to choose from, but do any exist on a molecular level? Sub-nanometer sized pollutant molecules, such as CO2 whcih has a kinetic diameter of 0.33 nm, can cause many problems in our environment and their separation is a challenging task.

Nanoporous materials, particularly those possessing micropores (diameter in the range of 2 nm-0.2 nm), such as the ones Dr. Rabbani is exploring in his research here at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, may hold the answer to filtering them out.

Description of Research

Dr. Rabbani is working on researching and manufacturing materials with extremely high surface areas for a wide range of potential applications. For instance, if the micropores of a high surface area material were engineered with specific functional groups that have an affinity for CO2, such a material could be used to create a filter to trap and separate CO2 molecules from gas mixtures such as landfill gas (a mixture of CO2 and CH4) or flue gas (a mixture of CO2 and N2).

Aside from separation of gas mixtures, the material are also being studied for the use in the separation of toxic metals from water. These materials also have a variety of other applications. For example, porous materials can be used in the medical industry as binders in tablets, which means that drug molecules are loaded into and held by the pores of the material. A tablet with a porous structure will cause a slow release of drug molecules compared to regular tablets.

Dr. Rabbani is also working on preparing robust and reusable heterogeneous catalysts by exploiting the functionalized surface of porous architecture. The focus of the catalysis project is the conversion of CO2 to value-added chemicals.

Academic Areas of Focus

Chemistry
The central focus of this research is the synthesis of porous materials, which involves both organic and inorganic synthesis techniques. Students gain experience using a variety of high-standard instruments and using synthetic skills to include the following:

  • Aerobic and anaerobic synthesis
  • Glovebox
  • Schlenk line
  • Column and thin layer chromatography
  • Surface area analyzer
  • NMR
  • IR
  • UV-vis spectrophotometer
  • Atomic absorption spectrometer
  • Scanning electron microscope
  • Many others

Nanotechnology and Engineering Physics
Nanoporous polymers are particularly interesting in engineering because of their potential application in carbon capture and sequestration. 

Biology
Porous materials in drug storage and the release of application is of great interest in biology, especially for students pursuing medical, dental, or veterinary school.

Chem 2000 and Chem 4000 level credits
Students not only receive research experience, but they will also obtain research credit through academic semester research. Students can earn basic research techniques credit through Chem 2000 or gain independent research skills through multiple-semester research experiences through Chem 4000.

Application and Career Opportunities

Diverse research experiences from Dr. Rabbani's lab provide undergraduate students a wide range of career opportunities. These include graduate school, medical or professional school, and industrial jobs. It also enhances the students' critical thinking abilities, gives them hands-on experience with different instruments, and builds their analysis and presentation skills.

A look over the list of recent graduates who worked with Dr. Rabbani shows the range of their career possibilities. The list includes students pursuing D.D.S., M.D., or Ph.D. graduate work as well as students who have begun careers in industry. Though their paths are diverse, the skills they acquired as undergraduate researchers at UW-Platteville will serve them throughout their lives and careers. 

It will be just as exciting to see where they go as it will be to find out how nanoporous materials will shape our technological future.

Join our Research Group

Students involved in Dr. Rabbani's research generally work in his lab twice a week and have the option of working full time over the summer.

The work includes planning, setting up, and carrying out experimental procedures to achieve a goal, then analyzing the results. Those experimental results are shared at conferences, such as the one held by the American Chemical Society (ACS).

Troubleshooting is often necessary, and Dr. Rabbani lends assistance when needed. Students are trained in laboratory procedures and the use of specific equipment, and all majors are welcome. The main requirement is that students have completed at least General Chemistry II or Chemistry of Engineers, to ensure that they possess a good foundation in chemistry to draw from.

We are always looking for highly motivated students. If you are interested in a more in-depth research experience in nanoporous materials, particularly in carbon capture and sequestration (CCS), water purification, catalysis, or drug storage, please contact Dr. Rabbani.

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