Welch Foundation Awards $330,000 to UTSA Chemistry Researchers
Chemistry professors Cong-Gui Zhao, Banglin Chen and Doug E. Frantz in The University of Texas at San Antonio College of Sciences will together receive $330,000 from the Welch Foundation over the next two years to develop more effective chemical reactions to assemble important compounds and materials.
Associate Professor Cong-Gui Zhao will receive $130,000 to improve the way chemists make organocatalysts, carbon-based molecules used to speed up chemical reactions. Traditionally, chemists make organocatalysts from scratch, a time-consuming and laborious process. Zhao, however, will design and produce pre-catalyst modules, which will self-assemble when mixed. By developing a series of chemical building blocks, Zhao will create a chemical assembly line, reducing the time and labor it takes to develop a series of effective catalysts for a given chemical reaction.
Through $100,000 in support from the Welch Foundation, Associate Professor Banglin Chen will carry out research on the self-assembly of new metal-organic porous materials for gas storage, gas separation and other chemical processes. Chen’s research team has already developed and patented porous materials for commercial acetylene storage, separation and removal. Acetylene is used in plastic production, welding and metal cutting. Over the next two years, the researchers will focus on how the metal ions in porous materials recognize and interact with various types of gases and develop functional porous materials for gas storage and separation.
The remaining Welch Foundation funding will support Assistant Professor Doug Frantz’s research on allene synthesis. Allenes are an important class of molecules that serve as the building blocks for various compounds including new drugs and biologically active natural products. Using hydrogen-transfer processes, Frantz’s research team will provide chemists with a practical and powerful tool to synthesize allenes for academic and commercial use.
The Welch Foundation, based in Houston, is one of the nation’s largest and oldest private funding sources for chemistry research. It primarily supports researchers at Texas institutions of higher education.
The University of Texas at San Antonio is one of the fastest growing higher education institutions in Texas and one of nine academic universities and six health institutions in the UT System. As a multicultural institution, UTSA aims to be a national research university providing access to educational excellence and preparing citizen leaders for the global environment.
UTSA serves more than 30,300 students in 65 bachelor’s, 49 master’s and 21 doctoral degree programs in the colleges of Architecture, Business, Education and Human Development, Engineering, Honors, Liberal and Fine Arts, Public Policy, Sciences and Graduate School. Founded in 1969, UTSA is an intellectual and creative resource center and a socioeconomic development catalyst for Texas and beyond. More information online at www.utsa.edu/today.