Binding Metals

Arts & Sciences News

June 17, 2009
By: Jennifer Alexander

While some research being conducted in labs across the nation is focused on finding a distinct solution to a defined problem, Dr. Kevin Klausmeyer's current work is grounded in the purest of academic pursuits: learning for the sake of learning.

"Often it is necessary to establish a broad base of knowledge before the potential applications become apparent," Klausmeyer says. "I like to think of my work as helping to establish that broad base."

That's not to say that his focus on the synthesis of silver compounds that are linked into extended networks won't someday have a potential application. "Currently in the field there is considerable interest in polymeric and so-called 'metal-organic frameworks' containing silver ions," he says. Testing with these compounds includes making bridges
between the silver ions by introducing linking groups that contain phosphorous and nitrogen compounds.

The experiments utilize a specific bipyridine compound known for its ability to bind several metals at once. The class of compounds that are subsequently created in this project, Klausmeyer says, can be studied by others for possible use in catalysis, hydrogen storage and material science. Things like nanotechnology, metallurgy, ceramics, computer chips and LCD screens all are the result of material science.

Klausmeyer notes that bipyridine chemistry with phosphines is still in development. "The field is wide open, and there are not many chemists working in it right now, although there is growing interest," he says. Klausmeyer has wanted to conduct this research for several years, and though his own background differs greatly from the nature of the research, "I was able to learn a lot as we started this project. My background is in organometallic chemistry, and the work that I do now is more in the area of coordination chemistry," he says. These distinct but related sub-fields are classified under inorganic chemistry.

"I have always approached science as a pure science," Klausmeyer says. "I like to find things out for the sake of discovering them."

With the help of funding from the Office of the Vice Provost for Research, Klausmeyer purchased lab equipment and supplies for carrying out the research; he primarily employs fluorescence and X-ray crystallography in the work he does with silver compounds. In his
X-ray crystallography work, Klausmeyer says he has determined the structure of more than 100 new compounds. As proof the initial Baylor funding for his project paid off, Klausmeyer received an additional $150,000 from the Robert A. Welch Foundation over three years.

Klausmeyer's team has published its findings in eight peer-reviewed journals, with more being prepared for submission. He says the knowledge gained from this research will be applied to other metals, including gold, in the near future. And, with each new discovery
comes the need for more research. "This project will go on for many years because with every new discovery we have even more questions," he says. "If we run out of questions, I will move on to something else."
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