Designing Better Chemistry

Elon Ison loves solving molecular puzzles. The finished products: better chemical reactions.

Ison, an associate professor of chemistry, and researchers in his lab use transition metals to design molecules called catalysts that make common chemical reactions faster and more efficient. The researchers also make these reactions less wasteful, a practice known as green chemistry.

The group focuses on foundational principles of chemistry to contribute to overall understanding in the field so that scientists and engineers can develop new technologies more efficiently.

“What we are trying to do is increase our understanding so engineers or people who are interested in doing applications can use that knowledge to help in their design strategies,” Ison says.

Problem solving is a big — and fun — part of Ison’s work, whether it involves experiments in the lab or modeling molecules on computers. “It’s always a puzzle going in,” Ison says. “We always think we can gather more information in order to solve that puzzle. That keeps us going.”

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