Fall 2022

Gifts at Work

Fall 2022

Gifts at Work

The lithium-ion battery in your cellphone, laptop computer or even your automobile may soon incorporate new nanocarbon materials that can dramatically improve nearly every aspect of the battery’s performance — and the research of UAlbany Chemistry Professor Marina A. Petrukhina will likely play a major role.

“Nowadays, we all are using battery-powered cell phones and other small portable devices on a daily basis. However, many challenges related to safety, costs, lifespan and charge capabilities of the batteries remain,” says Petrukhina, whose National Science Foundation-supported research explores the chemical behavior and structures of novel contorted and twisted molecular nanocarbon materials. “The excellent properties of new contorted nanocarbon hosts [revealed by her lab's work] may provide new practical opportunities in resolving some of the major [battery] issues in the future.”

The discovery and creation of new nanocarbons materials in recent decades has opened the door to promising new applications in everything from battery technology to pharmaceuticals. With the help of the Carla Rizzo Delray ’42 Professorship in Chemistry, Petrukhina’s team is conducting research with implications that are far-reaching and potentially groundbreaking.

The endowed professorship is named in honor of Delray, a graduate of the New York State College for Teachers (UAlbany's predecessor) and former researcher who worked on artificial intelligence projects at General Electric’s Research and Development Center.

“This endowed professorship had a tremendous impact on my professional career as it brought additional visibility and recognition at both national and international levels,” says Petrukhina. Along with increased invitations to speak around the globe and opportunities to serve on international boards of scientific journals and professional societies, the professorship allowed her to expand her research in new directions not covered by her NSF grant, and provided her graduate students professional opportunities they might not have otherwise had.

“It supported travel to Argonne National Laboratory to carry out unique synchrotron experiments that allowed our group to complete structural characterization of extremely small and weak crystals which cannot be handled using our inhouse instrumentation. This provided a tremendous boost to our synthetic research programs.”

Petrukhina credits her mother — also a chemistry teacher — for being the catalyst for her interest and ultimate success in science.

“She kept constantly challenging me with interesting chemical problems and complex chemical puzzles until I developed a very solid foundation coupled with admiration for chemistry in our life. And then I was hooked."

Despite her well-deserved accolades and accomplishments, Petrukhina jokes that she'll know she's made a real difference in her career when we no longer need to be asked at the airport, “Do you have any lithium-ion batteries in your checked luggage?”

If you are interested in more information about establishing an endowed professorship at UAlbany, please contact Larry Lichtenstein at llichtenstein@albany.edu.