By Audrey Moores (Assistant Professor, Dept. Chemistry, McGill)
Chemistry is often referred to as the central science owing to its role in providing mankind with all the necessary components of its life-style, from materials to cosmetics, from food and fuels to medicines. But many of our natural resources are peaking or will be peaking in the close future and pollution affects us and our environment broadly. Chemistry is a powerful vector to address these two questions and provide meaningful solutions for a sustainable economy. Green Chemistry is an emerging field of research concerned with designing and implementing such solutions. In the lab, we work on catalysts, i.e. additives that enable chemical processes to happen more efficiently and more effectively. We design and synthesize such catalysts that are intrinsically amenable to recovery and reuse, while limiting the use of toxic and non-earth-abundant materials. In this context, we specialized in the use of nano-sized catalysts that are intrinsically very active and provide venues for recycling. We are developing three major axes of research: we use iron nanoparticles as magnetically recoverable catalysts and as seed to afford novel catalysts with limited use of starting materials, we turned to cellulose nanocrystallites to build smart catalyst supports for applications in pharmaceutical chemistry and we are developing a novel solvent-free methodology to access nanomaterials for biomedical and electronic applications.