Centers for Chemical Innovation Program
Supports research centers focused on major, long-term fundamental chemical research challenges. CCIs integrate research, innovation, education, and informal science communication and broaden participation of underrepresented groups.
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Center for Enabling New Technologies Through Catalysis

The CENTC Grand Challenge is to develop the basic science to enable transformative catalytic reactions that impact problems of global significance. Catalysts are being developed to make new reactions possible to more efficiently produce chemicals from petroleum and to allow different starting materials (more readily available, less expensive and less toxic) to be used to make a desired product. Nearly all of the current industrial production of fuels, plastics, drugs and other products rely on catalysts. More efficient catalysts will not only contribute to lower energy use by the chemical and pharmaceutical industry, but will allow us to better utilize our natural resources, lower chemical waste production and move toward a sustainable society.

Chemists and chemical engineers in CENTC collaborate on understanding, designing, and developing new catalysts that will allow for more efficient, economic and greener technologies in the chemical industry. At the most fundamental level, CENTC scientists are investigating new reactions for the selective cleavage and formation of C-H, C-C, C-O, O-O and O-H bonds. The knowledge gained is being used to devise innovative methodologies, including novel types of tandem catalytic processes (where two or more catalysts work together to promote a series of reactions), and to achieve valuable transformations such as direct alkane functionalization, selective defunctionalization of biomass, utilization of carbon dioxide as a feedstock chemical, and the oxidation of water.

Nearly all industrial production of fuels, plastics, and drugs relies on catalysis.
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CCI Solar

CCI Solar

Center for Chemical Innovation in Solar Fuels

Given the growing global demand for energy and our increasing dependence on fossil fuels, the need for renewable fuels from sunlight is greater than ever. CCI Solar was the first major academic research center in the US to target the problem of solar fuel production. The PIs in CCI Solar are committed to working together as a team to develop the fundamental knowledge necessary for large-scale production of solar fuels.

Solar energy research is inherently interdisciplinary, involving chemical synthesis, solid state chemistry and physics, electrochemistry, chemical kinetics and mechanism, and theoretical and computational chemistry. In addition, it involves concepts of homogeneous and interfacial chemistry between solids, liquids, and gases. Investigators in CCI Solar are focusing on fundamental research to develop the scientific basis of building a solar water splitting system.

CCI Solar research targets critical basic-science challenges facing efficient, solar-driven conversion of water to H2 and O2. Understanding the fundamental processes of light absorption, charge transport, and multielectron redox catalysis is the overarching goal of the CCI Solar program. These processes must ultimately work in concert. Knowing the enormous size of the energy sector, our work focuses on materials and molecular complexes compatible with wide spread use. Research focuses on three primary areas: development of enhanced light absorbers; discovery of optimized catalyst materials; and integration of components into functional assemblies.

Every human being on Earth would be impacted by the development of sustainable energy resources.
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Chemistry at the Space-Time Limit

The mission of the Center for Chemistry at the Space-Time Limit (CaSTL) is to develop the essential science and technology to probe single chemical events in real space and time. The tools are designed to unravel elementary steps in chemistry, in heterogeneous and nanocatalysis, and in photophysics. The ultimate aim is to apply such tools to address grand challenges in chemistry.

Its purpose? To integrate scientific expertise, and to provide long-term commitment to high-risk projects that require multi-investigator expertise. To create the next-generation of researchers with cross-disciplinary training. To broadly impact science communities locally and internationally through collaborations and access to CaSTL technologies. To broadly disseminate scientific findings and knowledge through publications, lectures, public talks and electronic media, to the professional community and to the public at large. To develop transformational science through intellectual property and technology transfer. To provide public outreach through a comprehensive outreach and education plan. To broaden the participation of underrepresented minorities and women in the sciences, and in particular in chemistry and physics.

Unravelling elementary steps in chemistry
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Center for Chemical Evolution

Our ability to search for the chemical origin of life is much more advanced from the time when many "classic" origins of life experiments were carried out. Simple paper chromatography was previously used for the identification of amino acids in model prebiotic reactions. Advances in analytical techniques such as GC, MS, HPLC, and NMR provide far more detailed analyses of the complex chemical mixtures that result from model prebiotic reactions, including the identification of unexpected products. Modifications to these analytical techniques allow better assessment and quantification of the formation of products produced at very low concentrations under unique circumstances, such as on the surface of minerals, in the presence of UV light or under day/night cycling conditions. Identification of possible precursor molecules for the biological molecules we know today, such as sugars, nucleobases and amino acids, could lead us to a better understanding of how biomacromolecules evolved.

Our expanding knowledge of the prebiotic chemical inventory and our greater appreciation for the importance of self-assembly create a powerful combination for making significant advances in the field of origin of life. Finding molecules with the ability to self-assemble into RNA- or protein-like polymers, regardless of whether these can be proven to be the ancestors, would undoubtedly create considerable excitement among scientists and the general public, represent a major advancement in the field of molecular self-assembly, and prove abundantly useful to synthetic chemists.

How life began is one of the most intriguing questions of our time.
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Center for Sustainable Materials Chemistry

The CSMC is building and studying a sustainable materials chemistry platform for addressing pressing needs in scaling. Semiconductor manufacturers are focused on scaling to ever smaller device structures, while printed and display electronics are focused on scaling performance across very large areas. At the same time, new materials and methods are needed to accelerate the deployment of efficient, very large-area solar energy devices to address global climate change. The CSMC is exploring new solution-based methods for producing very high-quality thin films and patterns as building blocks for these next-generation devices. With its water-based chemistries, the Center has demonstrated leading-edge results in nanocluster synthesis, nanopatterning, integrated device performance, and solar water splitting.

The CSMC strives to broaden perspectives and opportunities through collaborative mentorships and team research on grand scientific challenges. Network building is strongly supported through our broad partnerships, web-enabled meetings, and travel funds. Entry-level students can join the Center through an immersion course that is taught by advanced Center graduate students and postdoctoral scholars. The course is structured around a Center research project that leads to a journal publication. Graduates of the course can participate as instructors in follow-on offerings to enhance professional development toward an academic career.

The Center maintains an Informal Science Education program with the Oregon Museum Science and Industry, a unique collaboration for building public communication skills. Numerous internships are available through our numerous partnerships with industry and the Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnolgoies Insitute. The Center in collaboration with the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance offers an extensive series of workshops and webinars aimed at educating and preparing students for careers in innovation. The Center is an active member of a thriving innovation ecosystem that is focused on enabling and accelerating the translation of basic chemistry research to commercial products.

Curiosity-driven and use-inspired research.
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Center for Selective C-H Functionalization

Synthetic chemistry has traditionally relied upon functional groups such as halogens, heteroatoms, carbonyl groups and pi-bonds in order to furnish site-selective reactions. The success of this approach underpins the foundations of much of the current logic of organic synthesis. However it is not without its problems.

Issues such as the environmental impact of the methodology and the associated waste by-products, the atom- and redox-economy of the synthetic strategy and the overall efficiency of the transformations are themes that are of increasing significance to the science. Today, more than ever, these factors must be at the forefront of the scientific consciousness.

C-H Functionalization embraces these perspectives. The C-H bonds of the hydrocarbon scaffold are no longer considered to be un-reactive bystanders and are promoted to capable and efficient reaction partners. New catalyst systems provide reactions with selectivity's previously thought impossible. C-H Functionalization not only streamlines synthetic strategies by removing the need to prefunctionalize a reaction center, it significantly increases atom economy, reducing waste by-products and by it's catalytic nature, increases the efficiency of synthesis.

The Center for Selective C-H Functionalization (CCHF) has come together to forge C-H functionalization into a reliable, predictable and scalable methodology at the core of synthetic chemistry.

C-H Functionalization is set to bring about a paradigm shift in synthetic chemistry.
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Center for Aerosol Impacts on Climate and the Environment

The NSF Center for Aerosol Impacts on Climate and the Environment (CAICE) focuses on improving our understanding of how aerosol particles impact the environment, air quality, and climate. Led by Prof. Kimberly Prather, UC San Diego Distinguished Chair in Atmospheric Chemistry, the Center's goal is to understanding critical details regarding the chemistry of aerosols.

Aerosols are microscopic bits of dust, soot, and sea spray - the most poorly understood component of Earth's atmosphere. Aerosols play a significant role in our environment, influencing human health - even how we breathe - while also affecting clouds and precipitation, thereby impacting our water supply. Aerosol particles are emitted by a wide range of sources, including coal-fired power plants, vehicles, wildfires, volcanoes, desert dust, and sea spray from the ocean. The impact of aerosols on our climate and environment represents not only a scientific grand challenge, but also an international challenge, because these small particles can be transported around the globe in a matter of days or weeks.

Using computational tools and state-of-the-art instrumentation, including a novel approach with a real-world 'beaker' to generate aerosols, CAICE brings together a strong research team to focus on the critical area of aerosol chemistry, one of the largest current gaps in our understanding of climate change. This Center is building the next generation of tools for studying complex chemical processes as well as the fundamental theories to explain these processes.

Aerosols play a significant role in our environment, influencing human health.
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Center for Sustainable Polymers

The Center for Sustainable Polymers (CSP) integrates sustainability issues that focus on the science and technology of polymeric materials into research, education, and public outreach initiatives. Members of the center concentrate their research efforts on harnessing the renewable, functional, degradable and non-toxic ingredients provided by Nature for tomorrow's advanced plastics, foams, adhesives, elastomers, coatings and other macromolecular materials. To foster innovation the CSP partners with numerous companies that develop, implement, and advance technologies in the sustainable polymer industry.

The CSP relies on experts in polymer, organic, biosynthetic, inorganic, computational, and materials chemistry to provide society with technologically competitive, cost-effective, and environmentally sustainable polymeric materials. The research focus of the center encompasses (I) Next Generation Feedstocks, where researchers work to discover new, efficient, non-toxic, and catalytically mediated chemical transformations of biomass and other natural product-based feedstocks into both established and new molecules that can be converted into both established and new polymers. (II) Controlled Polymerization Processes, where researchers work to discover new methods to convert biobased monomers into sustainable polymers with precisely controlled molecular structures. And (III) Hybrid Polymer Structures, where researchers work to establish crucial relationships between chemical structure, morphology, and performance for polymer architectures that incorporate multiple components and exhibit advanced properties important for future products.

Pioneering the next generation of plastics.
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Center for Sustainable Nanotechnology

Nanoparticles are playing an important role in many existing and emerging technologies. Some examples include new medical diagnostics and targeted treatments for cancer and other diseases, fuel cells and advanced batteries for hybrid/electric vehicles, and new generations of solar cells that have the potential to provide us with free energy from the sun. A key element of all of these emerging technologies is the use of nanoparticles - finely divided matter, divided into tiny particles only a few billionths of a meter in size. In many applications nanoparticles are used because they provide a very high surface area for a given amount of material, thereby making more effective use of precious elements. In other applications nanomaterials may exhibit unique properties that are a consequence of their small size, containing anywhere from 10 to 10,000 atoms. While nanoparticles have a great potential to improve our society, relatively little is yet known about how nanoparticles interact with organisms, and how the unintentional release of nanoparticles from consumer or industrial products might impact the environment.

The goal of the Center for Sustainable Nanotechnology is to develop and utilize a molecular-level understanding of nanomaterial-biological interactions to enable development of sustainable, societally beneficial nanotechnologies. In effect, we aim to understand the molecular-level chemical and physical principles that govern how nanoparticles interact with living systems, in order to provide the scientific foundations that are needed to ensure that continued developments in nanotechnology can take place with the minimal environmental footprint and maximum benefit to society.

Enabling world-changing nanotechnology.
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