From UI Communications
“Iodine is much more benign,” said Davico.
It is also quite a versatile element. In solution form, it is used as a topical antiseptic. As a salt, it is an additive to table salt. Now, as an ion, it provides the answer to a problem organic chemists have spent years looking for – how to efficiently and selectively break the carbon-hydrogen bond in hydrocarbons.
“From a chemistry point of view, this reaction is a milestone,” he said.
Prior work by scientists in California and the Netherlands identified iodine as a possible catalyst for the reaction. But the equipment to test iodine as a catalyst did not exist.
Davico and his students spent nearly four years and $250,000
in grant money to design and build a piece of equipment where the reaction
could occur and be studied in detail.
Over the past four years, two graduate students and four undergraduate students assisted in building the instrument.
“It gave the students a whole different educational experience,” said Davico.
He remembers when a specialized moving crew had to be hired to lift a two-ton pump to his second-floor lab in Renfrew Hall. “The first time we turned it on, the whole building rattled,” said Davico. “We had to do some modifications.”
The work paid off.
“Our instrument gave us the capability to do things others couldn’t,” said Davico. “We were able to nail down how the reaction happened and why it happened, which allows for a rational design of even better catalysts.”
The researcher says work will continue to enhance the properties of iodine as a catalyst. He also will look at other elements and compounds that could prove to be an even more efficient catalyst.
Davico’s work has been published in The Journal of Physical Chemistry and Chemical and Engineering News, the news magazine of the American Chemical Society.