Pushing the Limits of Chemical Bonding

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The International Conference on Chemical Bonding (ICCB), a conference cofounded by Professor Anastassia Alexandrova, was recently featured by Chemical and Engineering News (C&EN) as the cover story for the magazine’s September 22, 2014 issue.

The International Conference on Chemical Bonding (ICCB) was started in 2013 by Professor Anastassia Alexandrova (University of California, Los Angeles) and Alexander Boldyrev (Utah State University) to help bring together scientists “who probe and reveal new aspects of chemical bonding in matter and bond manipulation, and who use their research for rational design of materials and property analysis.”


Excerpt from C&EN“Chemical bonding theory traditionally has been in the realm of molecular chemistry, especially organic chemistry,” conference cofounder Anastassia N. Alexandrova of UCLA told C&EN. “But that topic is perhaps considered archaic and long since done.”

Meanwhile, materials scientists have typically used either macroscopic qualitative descriptors or nondescriptive electronic band structure concepts and not benefited from the rationale and design principles that arise from traditional bonding theory, Alexandrova explained. Applying bonding theory to solid-state materials has been underexplored. But even as capable models have become available, they are not garnering much attention. “Breaking this stagnation is one of the conference’s goals,” she said.

Participants from the 2014 International Conference on Chemical Bonding – Kauai, Hawaii

To set an example, Alexandrova’s group is collaborating with Mark Saeys at Ghent University, in Belgium, to study the chemistry of unexpected square-planar carbon species that form on cobalt catalyst surfaces treated with synthesis gas. The tetracoordinated carbon takes on the square-planar geometry as opposed to the typical tetrahedral structure, and the aromaticity of Co4C building blocks drives formation of nanocluster islands on the catalyst surface that facilitate the reaction. In industrial reactions, catalyst surfaces often undergo massive reconstructions as the catalytic sites form and re-form via self-organization. Saeys and Alexandrova, in partnership with Shell, are now able to understand the unusual bonding leading to surface reconstruction of commercial cobalt catalysts. This bonding insight could lead to improved catalyst stability and selectivity in the Fischer-Tropsch synthesis of fuels and chemicals.


The full C&EN cover story can be read here. For more information about the 2015 ICCB conference, please visit the conference home page

For more about information about Professor Alexandrova and her research, please visiting her group page.