Clarkson Professor Awarded Nearly $200K NSF ERI Grant to Study Advanced Alloy Electrocatalysts

May 10, 2023

Ian McCrum, an assistant professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering in the Coulter School of Engineering was recently awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) Engineering Research Initiation (ERI) grant. His project will allow him to determine how atomic-scale interactions between two or more metals present in a unique type of surface alloy he and his team have developed dictate its performance as an electrocatalyst in electrolyzers and fuel cells. These catalysts are necessary to increase the rates of chemical reactions. Through this process, the team will be able to predictively design and synthesize better-performing alloy catalysts for a given chemical reaction, instead of having to tirelessly test thousands of combinations of metals one by one.


Headshot, Ian McCrum
Ian McCrum

Their work will focus on nitrogen reduction, a reaction in which renewable electricity can be used in an electrolyzer to convert atmospheric nitrogen and water into ammonia, one of the most widely used fertilizers. Identifying better catalysts will enable nitrogen reduction to occur more efficiently, selectively, and at lower cost, so that it may eventually replace traditional ammonia production from fossil fuels. The recent transition to clean energy technology has stimulated research in alternative energy sources and the associated research and development of electrocatalytic processes for both chemical manufacturing and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

“This grant is important because it will allow us to perform fundamental and cutting-edge research on surface science and electrocatalysis, using our research group's unique experimental and computational modeling capabilities. This will provide a great foundation on which to grow our research group here at Clarkson. This grant will fund one graduate student for two years, as well as research experiences for undergraduate students over the next two summers – giving them hands-on experience in the lab and in quantum mechanics-based computational modeling,” McCrum said.

To learn more about the project, go to

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