Five schools in the Houston area have landed $10.8 million in research grants from the Houston-based Welch Foundation.
The 36 grants were awarded to Rice University, Texas A&M University, the University of Houston, the Baylor College of Medicine, and the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston.
In all, the foundation announced nearly $28 million in Texas research grants for 2023. All of the money — in the form of 91 grants for 15 Texas colleges and universities — goes toward chemical research. This year’s total for grant funding matches last year’s total.
“The Welch Foundation continues to emphasize the creative pursuit of basic chemical research,” Adam Kuspa, the foundation’s president and a former dean at the Baylor College of Medicine, says in a news release. “Our funding allows investigators throughout the state to follow their curiosity and explore the foundations chemical processes.”
Since its establishment in 1954, the Welch Foundation has contributed about $1.1 billion to the advancement of chemistry in Texas.
One of this year’s local grant recipients is Haotian Wang, assistant professor in Rice’s chemical and biomolecular department. The professor’s grant-funded research will focus on the conversion of carbon dioxide into useful chemicals, such as ethanol.
Last year, Rice reported that Wang’s lab in the George R. Brown School of Engineering had replaced rare, expensive iridium with ruthenium, a more abundant precious metal, as the positive-electrode catalyst in a reactor that splits water into hydrogen and oxygen.
The lab’s addition of nickel to ruthenium dioxide resulted in production of hydrogen from water electrolysis for thousands of hours.
“There’s huge industry interest in clean hydrogen,” Wang says. “It’s an important energy carrier and also important for chemical fabrication, but its current production contributes a significant portion of carbon emissions in the chemical manufacturing sector globally.”
“We want to produce it in a more sustainable way,” he adds, “and water-splitting using clean electricity is widely recognized as the most promising option.”
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