The Washington State University Graduate School has appointed Chemistry Professor Gregory J. Crouch as associate vice provost for graduate academic programs. Management and Entrepreneurship Professor Arvin Sahaym has been named associate vice provost for interdisciplinary initiatives with the Graduate School.
Both appointments began with the start of the Spring 2023 semester.
In his new role as associate vice provost for graduate academic programs, Crouch will serve as liaison between the Graduate School and Faculty Senate Graduate Studies Committee and support assessment and data review processes. He will also oversee the transformation of the Graduate Mentor Academy.
Crouch holds a doctorate in organic chemistry from WSU and has been a faculty member in the Department of Chemistry since 1996. He currently serves as interim director of graduate studies and associate chair in the Department of Chemistry.
Xiaofeng Guo, an assistant professor of chemistry at Washington State University, is part of a national team of scientists that recently received $39 million in funding to develop market-ready technologies to increase domestic supplies of critical elements required for the clean energy transition.
The Department of Energy-funding will support 16 projects across 12 states to develop commercially scalable technologies that will enable greater domestic supplies of copper, nickel, lithium, cobalt, rare earth, and other critical elements.
The objective of Guo’s project, “Mining Red Mud Waste for Carbon Dioxide Capture and Storage and Critical Element Recovery,” is to use supercritical carbon dioxide to recover critical elements, especially rare earth elements, from aluminum production wastes (red mud).
The project is led by Xin Zhang, chemical engineer of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) in Richland, Washington, joined by Arizona State University Professor Alexandra Navrotsky, who was Guo’s PhD advisor and donor for the Alexandra Navrotsky Institute for Experimental Thermodynamics at WSU.
An X‑ray beamline with a first-of-its-kind imaging source is being installed at Washington State University’s Dodgen Research Facility. The instrument, valued at over $1 million, will allow researchers to study a range of materials at nano- and atomic-scales. It’s also perhaps the only X‑ray beamline in the world to be housed in the same facility as a research nuclear reactor, facilitating the study of irradiated materials.
The 20-foot-long instrument sends a beam of light that can penetrate through a sample which then scatters the beam onto a detector. This allows scientists to see the material’s nanostructures and atomic features. WSU’s X‑ray beamline can analyze a wide array of organic and inorganic materials from plant leaves to irradiated heavy elements to nanoparticles used in smart medicine.
“It’s a very versatile instrument,” said Liane Moreau, a WSU assistant professor of chemistry. “It has some pretty unique capabilities. It’s the only one currently in the United States that has an imaging source. That allows us to take images and get data from a specific spot on a sample and correlate it to different spots and structures the sample might have.”
Unlike a high-powered microscope which requires dried samples, the X‑ray beamline can measure liquids and material dissolved in a solution. Researchers can also modify the environment, including changing temperature or humidity, or introducing a gas, and see how the material responds in real-time.
The machine can collect data on atomic and nanoscale structures of interest to a wide range of fields including biology, chemistry, engineering, medicine, and pharmaceutical sciences. The researchers encouraged other WSU faculty to explore how this instrument might help with their investigations.
“We are very open to working with people in different disciplines,” said Brian Collins, an associate professor of physics. “We have a team of faculty who are well versed in X‑ray techniques. We’ve worked with materials from the lightest down to the heaviest elements.”
Moreau, Collins, and chemistry Professor Jim Boncella helped secure the funding to bring the beamline to WSU, raising $850,000 from funds granted through the M. J. Murdock Charitable Trust and university support. Xenocs, the company that makes the machine, also gave WSU a discount and provided the unique imaging source, valued at over $110,000, for free, in return for helping test its capabilities.
A new energy-efficient method developed by a team of WSU scientists to locally produce hydrogen gas from ethanol and water has the potential to make clean hydrogen fuel a more viable alternative to fossil fuels.
“Our technology produces pure hydrogen at high pressure with high efficiency and at a low energy cost while also capturing the carbon dioxide by-product,” said Louis Scudiero, professor of chemistry and co-author of a paper on the research published in the journal Applied Catalysis A.
Like electric battery-powered cars, hydrogen fuel-cell cars don’t emit harmful carbon dioxide during operation and, like traditional gasoline-powered cars, hydrogen-powered cars can be refilled in minutes.
Despite its potential, the technology’s market penetration is very low. Delivery of compressed hydrogen gas to consumers is a significant stumbling block. The economic and safety challenges involved in transporting and storing large volumes of high-pressure hydrogen gas means there is little appropriate infrastructure in the U.S.
Three academic units in the College of Arts and Sciences are welcoming new leadership this fall.
In the School of Music, Professor Keri McCarthy succeeds Dean Luethi as director, and in the Department of Chemistry, Professor Cliff Berkman succeeds Kirk Peterson as chair.
In the School of the Environment—which is part of both CAS and the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences—Allyson Beall King, associate professor, career track, succeeds Kent Keller as director.
“Drs. McCarthy, Berkman, and King bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to their new roles,” said Todd Butler, CAS dean. Their respective terms began Aug. 16.