Prof. Karthish Manthiram

Theodore T Miller (1922) Career Development Assistant Professor in Chemical Engineering

Primary DLC

Department of Chemical Engineering

MIT Room: 66-550

Areas of Interest and Expertise

Renewable Energy
Reactor Design
Materials Chemistry
Organometallic Chemistry

Research Summary

The Manthiram Lab is focused on the molecular engineering of electrocatalysts for clean energy technologies and synthesis of fine and commodity chemicals. Key challenges we are addressing include carbon dioxide reduction, methane activation, and pharmaceutical synthesis. The Lab is directing efforts in several key areas:

(1) Converting carbon dioxide to fuels and feedstocks: We aim to re-envision the routes by which chemical feedstocks and fuels are produced today to use sustainable starting materials, such as carbon dioxide and water, to generate desirable fuels and feedstocks, including alcohols and hydrocarbons. By using renewable electricity to catalytically drive these conversions, such synthetic fuels and feedstocks will allow for closing the carbon cycle and mitigating carbon dioxide emissions which would otherwise contribute to global warming. In addition, such routes may represent a strategy for the storage of electrical energy in chemical bonds to overcome the intermittency of clean energy sources like solar and wind.

(2) Methane activation: We are also interested in developing electrochemical routes for the functionalization of existing petroleum and biological feedstocks. Of particular interest is the electrochemically-driven partial oxidation of methane to produce a condensable fuel or chemical feedstock. Attempts to electrochemically activate methane at ambient temperature and pressure have historically suffered from poor conversions and overoxidation, which we aim to overcome by developing selective elecrode architectures.

(3) Pharmaceutical synthesis: Most reducing and oxidizing agents used today for organic synthesis are derived from electrochemical routes and then used in separate non-electrochemical redox reactions of organic compounds to generate a wide range of fine chemicals. We aim to develop direct routes for the reduction and oxidation of organic compounds, including pharmaceuticals such as the N-substituted carbazole derivative shown at right. N-substituted carbazoles are part of an emerging class of small molecules that prevent nerve cell death associated with neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Huntington’s diseases, for which there are currently no effective clinical treatments to reverse nerve cell death. These compounds have recently been shown to not only confer neuroprotection, but also promote neurogenesis in the hippocampus of mice.

Recent Work