UC awards funding for interfacial science initiative

January 19, 2021

clean water

Michael Zuerch, Assistant Professor of Chemistry, will helm a new interdisciplinary science initiative as part of the University of California's (UC) $19M grant program in support of research focused on improving the lives of Californians. Zuerch’s interdisiplinary team has received a grant to fund the California Interfacial Science Initiative (CISI). This innovative program is one of 15 research projects funded by the University’s 2021 Multicampus Research Programs and Initiatives competition. These biannual awards are made by the UC Office of the President to support research and discoveries in fields important to UC and to the people, environment, and economy of California.

The CISI project seeks to address challenges arising from climate change and mitigate human impacts on the environment through the advancement of interfacial chemistry and interfacial molecular structure. The funding will be used to inaugurate the CISI’s coordination of currently separate theoretical and experimental efforts being studied across the UC system. The goal is to leverage the combined scientific expertise of members from six campuses towards the creation of a world-leading research center for interfacial science.

“The core of our project is the understanding that leveraging the expertise that exists in different research groups, in various locations, can make more substantial impacts than what a single research group can achieve,” Zuerch said.

Understanding interfacial chemistry at a molecular level is of striking importance for a wide array of current challenges, such as clean water production, carbon dioxide capture, removal of plastics from water, clean energy production by photocatalysis, and energy storage in next generation solid-state batteries. Currently, little is known about interfacial electronic and molecular structures, their dynamics, and how these lead to observed macroscopic properties and behaviors. The multidisciplinary research team plans to develop advanced experimental techniques that enable studying complex interfaces such as molecular level energy transfer theory, interfacial engineering,and quantum statistics calculation.

Zuerch emphasized the importance of collaboration within these projects, noting that the project’s funding will primarily go toward fostering exchange and joint research between universities.