EKU Senior Chemistry Major Wins First Place
This past spring, former EKU senior chemistry major Mr. Michael Mazzotta won first place at the 2012 Regional Undergraduate Chemistry Poster Session hosted by the Department of Chemistry, University of Kentucky. Each year students from local universities compete for the top $300 prize (sponsored by the Lexington Chapter of the American Chemical Society (ACS)). Past winners of this regional competition were from Berea College, Centre College, Marshall University, Transylvania University, University of Kentucky and Western Kentucky University. On Friday, April 13, 2012, a total of thirty students presented their research for the competition on a wide variety of chemistry topics. Mazzotta, who has attended and competed in the Kentucky Academy of Sciences (KAS) poster competition for the last two years stated, “This was more intense than KAS because the judge’s questions were more directly related to my work.”
Mazzotta’s work entitled, “Ambient Mass Spectral Analysis of Neat Ionic Liquids and Lignin Solubilized in Ionic Liquid Media,” was conducted in the laboratory of Dr. Darrin Smith, in the Department of Chemistry at EKU. Funded by EKU’s Center for Renewable and Alternative Fuel Technologies(CRAFT) and the Society for Analytical Chemists of Pittsburgh (SACP), Mazzotta project involves the analysis of 11 ionic liquids to be used to solubilize lignocellulose biomass. One impediment to commercial production of plant-based biofuel is the extraction of fuel-producing sugars from the lignocellulose in the walls of plant cells. Using Direct Analysis in Real Time (DART) mass spectrometry, Mazzotta determined three of five ionic liquids investigated were effective in solubilizing the lignin. This is the first time DART has been applied to the detection and analysis of ionic liquids. In addition, demonstration of DART’s ability to analyze the bio-products of lignin solubilization will loosen lignin’s grip on biofuel production and contribute to the technologies needed to produce new alternative fuels. Mazzotta graduated this past spring semester with his B.S. Chemistry degree and is pursuing his Ph.D at Purdue University.
Published on April 19, 2012