COSAM News Articles 2023 March Quantum Leaps – Kosolapoff Award and Lecture features cutting-edge research on capturing carbon dioxide and harvesting water

Quantum Leaps – Kosolapoff Award and Lecture features cutting-edge research on capturing carbon dioxide and harvesting water

Published: 03/21/2023

By: Maria Gebhardt

Laura Gagliardi, the Richard and Kathy Leventhal Professor at the University of Chicago, is the 2023 recipient of the G. M. Kosolapoff Award and Lecture for the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. She was honored with the award on March 15 and gave a lecture on how quantum chemical calculations assist in the discovery and improvement of materials needed to cover modern needs.

Gagliardi’s focus of research is on computational chemistry and material science. She has had more than 440 publications and her work has been cited more than 30,000 times. The goal of her research is to create quantum chemical methods and apply them to make a direct impact towards clean energy.

“The annual Kosolapoff Award and Lecture is an opportunity to bring world-class researchers to the Auburn University campus where students can hear directly about their work,” said Douglas Goodwin, chair of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. “The K-award is reserved for recipients who have made significant and substantial contributions to science.  Accordingly, winners like Professor Gagliardi are invariably members of the National Academy of Sciences. Several have been Nobel Laureates, many of these have been named soon after receiving the Kosolapoff Award.”

Her talk included two exciting and innovative research projects. First, she spoke about a relatively new area of research, Metal Organic Frameworks, or MOFs, that can help capture and absorb carbon dioxide as well as separate mixed gases into a pure gas. Secondly, she discussed atmospheric water harvesting that can continuously use energy to produce fresh, clean drinking water.

“Tonight, we are here to celebrate science,” said Evangelos Miliordos, associate professor in the department. “We will hear from a researcher who has made important contributions related to finding energy-based solutions to real-world problems.”

Gagliardi began her talk speaking about MOFs. This new class of materials can help absorb large quantities of carbon dioxide.

A direct impact in global warming, the levels of carbon dioxide could be absorbed into these frameworks reducing the ever-increasing levels.  

“By changing the nature of the MOF components, we can form frameworks in many dimensions that hold a large surface area,” Gagliardi said. “This efficient sponge can absorb this colorless and odorless gas.”

As a computational chemist, she tests and validates the model. Then, she makes predictions to help refine the experiment.

“The theory learns from the experiments and then becomes predictive,” she said.

Gagliardi then shared how one day soldiers or even a runner could have a self-contained unit that produces potable drinking water from just the air.

“Atmospheric water harvesting uses the MOFs to absorb air vapor, collect the condensation and release with a change in the energy,” she said. “The result is that a person could produce their own water throughout the day with just the natural elements of the air and sun.”

The Gagliardi Group is working with an international team of collaborators including Omar Yaghi, Joachim Sauer, Nikita Hakaniel, Grant Glover, David Moore and Ilja Siepmann.

Her projects are funded by the U.S. Department of Energy and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA.

Lara Kosolapoff-Wright and Lee Kurtz, who are granddaughters of Gennady Michael Kosolapoff, attended the award and lecture in honor of their grandfather. 

View a slideshow of photos from the 2023 G. M. Kosolapoff Award and Lecture: 


2023 Kosolapoff Award and Lecture
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