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Institute for Atom-Efficient Chemical Transformations (IACT) Energy Frontier Research Center

Experimental catalysis cluster
Shown here conceptually is a four-atom cluster
of platinum on the surface of alumina (a common
catalytic support). The platinum particle is
interacting with a molecule of propanol. The
propanol is a gas phase surrogate for the heavier
cellulose materials that are the focus of one of
Argonne’s Energy Frontier Research Centers, the
Institute for Atom-efficient Chemical Transformations.

IACT's Goal

The Institute for Atom-Efficient Chemical Transformations (IACT) will use a multidisciplinary approach to address key catalytic conversions that could improve the efficiency of producing fuels from coal and biomass. IACT will focus on advancing the science of catalysis for the efficient conversion of energy resources into usable forms. IACT’s goal is to find ways to achieve control and efficiency of chemical conversions comparable to those in nature.

Achieving this goal will require new catalytic materials. A major emphasis of IACT is to synthesize new, complex, multisite, multifunctional catalytic materials that offer new models for catalysis. Using advanced computation and modeling to interpret, understand, and optimize experimental results is also a critical part of advancing catalytic science.

Research Areas

IACT’s research can be divided into four tasks:

  • Catalyst synthesis
  • Advanced characterization
  • Computational modeling
  • Catalytic experimentation

Using these approaches, IACT will address key chemistries associated with:

  • Clean, efficient utilization of the two main chemical energy resources in the United States, coal and biomass
  • Utilization of electrical energy for conversion of CO2 and for upgrading the energy content of chemical systems
  • Efficient removal of oxygen from biomass, coal, and CO2, and the hydrogenation of these systems

Partner Facilities

IACT will make use of the Advanced Photon Source at Argonne National Laboratory and several Office of Science computational facilities (Argonne’s Center for Nanoscale Materials Virtual Fabrication Lab, the Argonne Leadership Computing Facility, the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and the Institute for Interfacial Catalysis at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory).

EFRCs at Argonne

IACT is one of two Energy Frontier Research Centers (EFRCs) at Argonne. The other, the Center for Electrical Energy Storage, will investigate electrical-energy storage technologies for alternative renewable energy sources, transportation, medicine, defense, aerospace, telecommunications and consumer applications. Argonne will also will play a prominent role in 10 other EFRCs.

Funding and Members

The Center will receive $19 million over five years. Argonne is the lead organization, with Argonne chemist Christopher Marshall as principal investigator and IACT director. In addition to Argonne, the Institute's other members include Northwestern University, Purdue University, and the University of Wisconsin.


February 2012


Christopher Marshall

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