George R. Pack Award

The George R. Pack Award for Most Outstanding Chemistry PhD Dissertation was established by colleagues, family and friends to recognize in perpetuity Dr. Pack’s role in growing a vigorous departmental research program, his contributions to the University’s research environment, and his appreciation of the key role that graduate students provide in the research process.

Dr. Steve P. Cronin – 2021 George Pack Award Recipient and SpeakerPicture for the George Pack Award Page

The CO Reduction Reaction from Homogenous to Heterogenous 

Abstract:  The effects of climate change are apparent in today’s society. This is a direct result of CO2 being released into the atmosphere reaching highs of 416 ppm. Rising fuel costs and current infrastructure dictate the need for catalysts that can convert atmospheric CO2 into value added products including liquid fuels. This talk will focus on two specific types of carbon dioxide reduction reaction (CO2RR) catalysts: homogenous and heterogeneous. In the first part of my talk, we will discuss homogenous reduction of CO2 from a zinc electrocatalyst. The zinc (II) catalyst Zn(DMTH) (DMTH = diacetyl-2-(4-mehtyl-3-thiosemicarbazonate)-3-(2-pyridinehydrazonato)) reduces CO2 from air to formate with a faradaic efficiency (ξ) of 15.1% based on total charge. The catalyst utilizes metal-ligand cooperativity and redox-active ligands to fix, activate, and reduce CO2. This approach provides a new strategy that incorporates sustainable earth-abundant metals that are oxygen and water tolerant. In the second part of my talk, we will discuss heterogenous reduction of CO2 from a nickel enhanced (Cr2O3)3Ga2O3 system. This catalytic system generates 1-butanol in water at a ξmax of 64% with an overpotential (η) of 900 mV and an onset of 320 mV. While also being active for the generation of other C2+ products: acetic acid (ξmax 18%, η 390 mV), acetone (ξmax 10 %, η 620 mV), and 3-hydroxybutanal (ξmax 63%, η 890 mV). This catalyst proceeds through a formate pathway to generate the higher carbon containing products. Mechanistic studies show the formate generates acetaldehyde which is further converted. This approach generates a fuel source that is carbon neutral and can be utilized directly in internal combustion engines.

Biography:  Steve Cronin is currently a Postdoctoral Associate at Princeton University in the lab of Andrew Bocarsly. His current research investigates the synthesis, characterization, and reactivity of alloys and intermetallic oxides. These alloys and intermetallic oxides have been studied directly for the CO2 reduction reaction to C2+ products. Prior to this he was a Postdoctoral Associate at the University of Stuttgart with Devin Estes. Work here focused on the use of platinum hydrides for olefin isomerizations. His graduate work was completed in the lab of Craig Grapperhaus and Robert Buchanan at the University of Louisville (Dissertation title: The Utilization of Metal-Ligand Cooperativity for Electrocatalytic Reduction and Catalytic Hydration). This work focused on utilizing metal-ligand cooperativity to reduce small molecules with the Zn (DMTH) (DMTH = diacetyl-2-(4-methyl-3-thiosemicarbzonate)-3-(2-pyridinehydrazonato) catalyst. While in this research group, Steve presented at a large quantity of conferences and published 3 papers in inorganic chemistry. At the 2019 ACS Green Conference, he was selected to give an impromptu oral presentation and won most outstanding poster. Steve received his bachelor’s degree in chemistry and secondary education from Northern Kentucky University.

Past Recipients