A Molecular Approach to Clay Materials

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What comes to your mind when you think of clay? Dirt on your shoes? Mud? Soil that’s difficult to work with? A vase? Clays are everyday materials with industrial importance that we can easily underestimate. There is a strong drive in clay material science and engineering that focus on understanding structure and composition. Many academic and industrial laboratories aim to control clay structure at the atomic level and induce tailored physical and chemical properties for the otherwise “boring” materials. While clay may be comprised of boring ions—Si4+, Al3+, O2-, and H+—together these ions are capable of forming amazing structures with rather shocking properties. With appropriate surface modifications, nanoclay particles can act as intelligent paint, form self-cleaning surfaces, provide support for selective chemical reactions, and be “sensors” for gases and small molecules.

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Dr. Robert K. Szilagyi was born, raised, and educated up to the Ph.D. level in Hungary. He joined the faculty at Montana State University (MSU) in 2003 after postdoctoral positions at Emory University with Prof. Morokuma, and at Stanford University with Profs. Solomon, Hedman, and Hodgson. After earning tenure at MSU in 2009, he started to explore his international roots and established funded research programs in Hungary and Japan. Over time his research interests have evolved from bioinorganic research to experimental, spectroscopic, and computational aspects of material science and engineering.