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Washington State University
The Gene and Linda Voiland School of Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering

Turning Base Metals into Gold

Headshot of Dr. Levi Thompson
Professor Levi Thompson

Professor Levi Thompson from University of Delaware gave the Voiland School’s annual Ensor lecture, speaking on the unusual properties of nanostructured early transition metal carbides and nitrides.

The event was held in October on the WSU campus.

In his lecture, Thompson described research in metal carbides and nitrides for catalytic and energy storage applications. Thompson’s group has worked to understand the interactions of hydrogen with these materials and their catalytic properties. They found evidence that subsurface hydrogen influences surface catalytic reactions for some metal nitrides. Because they can be produced with high surface areas, carbides and nitrides hold potential for use as support materials. A better understanding of the interactions could enable the rational design of carbide and nitride-supported metal catalysts.
Thompson is dean of the College of Engineering and Elizabeth Inez Kelley Professor of Chemical Engineering at the University of Delaware where he leads a college of nearly 200 faculty, 3,600 students and 120 staff with a number of major research centers.

With more than 150 publications and more than 10 patents, his research in nanostructured materials has applications in catalysis and energy storage. Thompson is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, a Fellow of the AIChE and recipient of awards including the NSF Presidential Young Investigator Award, McBride Distinguished Lectureship, Union Carbide Innovation Recognition Award, and Michiganian of the Year Award for his research, entrepreneurship, and teaching. He co-founded T/J Technologies, a developer of nanomaterials for advanced batteries that was acquired by A123 Systems, and Inmatech, a developer of low cost, high energy density supercapacitors for automotive and military applications.

David and Sara Ensor
David and Sara Ensor

The Ensor Lecture was established in 2016 to encourage communication and collaboration on emerging ideas in areas related to chemical engineering, bioengineering, aerosol technology and nanotechnology. David Ensor (’63, chemical engineering) and his wife, Sara, established the lectureship as a reflection of their deep interest in higher education and their strongly held belief in the empowerment that education provides for one’s life.