A basic research by HUST’s lecturer funded by the US Army

Saturday - 30/09/2023 22:44
Assoc. Prof. Tran Thuong Quang
Assoc. Prof. Tran Thuong Quang
Assoc. Prof. Tran Thuong Quang, Head of the Department of Organic Chemistry, School of Chemical Engineering (now part of the School of Chemistry and Life Sciences) and Deputy Director of HUST's Biomedical Electronics Center, is one of the few scientists at HUST who has the opportunity to work with the US Army.

In 2019, the topic “New and efficient synthesis of metal-organic (MOFs)/graphene oxide and MOFs/graphene framework materials for the Degradation of Organic Pollutants by photocatalysis in visible regions" officially received a $100,000 from the U.S. Army Research Foundation, setting the stage for other applied research in the field of environment and chemistry.

The usage of natural energy to treat environmental waste
Hearing from a co-worker that the US Army Research Foundation was looking to sponsor basic environmental research, Assoc. Prof. Tran Thuong Quang offered to meet and discuss about his research solution. His topic's goal is to optimize catalysts to be able to treat pollutants and toxic organics in wastewater based on the support of MOFs materials and quantum carbon dots. 
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Determine the distribution of atoms using EDS
This is basic research with high applicability in treating waste of water in the environment, using natural energy from sunlight as catalysts to form agents that can decompose organic compounds without leaving toxic chemicals in the environment. Based on the principle that the compound can absorb energy from visible light sources to stimulate the decomposition reaction of toxic organic substances in water, the project uses MOFs materials together with carbon dots.

The quantum dotted carbon material structure consists of a core of sp2/sp3 hybrid carbon spheres in amorphous or crystalline form, surrounded by functional groups. With the emergence of a variety of surrounding functional groups, quantum dot carbon materials are well-soluble in water and highly biocompatible, easily combined with substrates for further applications. In addition, with strong luminescent properties, less bleached, and good optical stability in environments with large pH changes, this material is also widely applied in the field of sensors to detect some types of metal ions such as Cu2+, Fe3+, Hg2+...
Photochemical mechanism of organic compounds processing
Photochemical mechanism of organic compounds processing
At the time this topic was considered for sponsorship, this was the first time a research group developed a material using quantum dot carbon combined with MOFs materials to form composites capable of treating environmental pollution through photochemical reactions using sunlight.

Quantum dot carbon materials with a good capability to absorb visible zone light are introduced into MOFs organic-inorganic framework materials by hydrothermal method. After changing temperature conditions in a long time to synthesize the material, just like a switch, quantum dot carbon is turned on to activate electrons when exposed to light and create a reaction that decomposes toxic organic matter.

Sharing the reason for choosing the topic, the Head of the Department of Organic Chemistry said that he has always been enthusiastic about the orientation of waste treatment. In the aquatic environment, it is quite easy to treat metals with flocculation, but this method is difficult to apply to remove toxic organic compounds.

For organic compounds, the most common method in wastewater treatment today is the use of enzymes. Enzyme method is more expensive and not highly efficient due to the selectivity of enzymes.

Assoc. Prof. Quang said there is huge potential for the project because photochemical catalysis is more favorable on a wide scale with the advantages of being easy to use, fast, economical, efficient and environmentally friendly.

This is a premise for the team to continue searching for new methods that are more efficient on an industrial scale, he added. Basic studies conducted in laboratories still require pilot-scale facilities to test regulatory standards. He hopes that oneday some businesses will consider using this new treatment plan so that his research will soon be put to practical use.

There is no gap in science between Vietnam and other countries in the world 
“There will always be risks in science research”, Assoc. Prof. Tran Thuong Quang shared his views on the research journey. In his experience, there will always be a chance that his experiment fails. What researchers can do is only limit the risk as much as possible.

However, the most favorable thing in his pursuing research activities is HUST’s strong internal strength with a team of talented and enthusiastic researchers trained from developed countries, with wide knowledge to implement international and practical topics.
Students check the concentration of organic dyes
Students check the concentration of organic dyes
The young researchers – HUST students – are very hardworking and passionate about participating in scientific research. "There are a lot of things we can't teach them in the classroom that students can only learn through science," he said.

In addition, thanks to the SAHEP laboratory equipment (sponsored by World Bank), his research team is easy to measure material specifications. To receive financial support from the U.S. Army, the team from the School of Chemistry and Life Sciences passed many other strong candidates when assessed for risk, feasibility and potential application.

This basic research will set the stage for other U.S. military research in the field of chemistry and the environment. After 2 years, the research results of the project have been widely published in high impact factor international journals, (02 Q1 articles and 01 Q2 article) and 1 international scientific conference.

Recently, a new research project with the topic "Research on organic supramolecules for the detection of PolyFlouroAlkyl in OFET devices" by the Assoc. Prof. Tran Thuong Quang and his colleagues also passed the application review of the US Army Research Foundation.

"Scientific research collaboration is important. Connecting with domestic and foreign institutions will take advantage of facilities and research potential to jointly solve global problems", Assoc. Prof. Tran Thuong Quang affirmed that the scientific gap between Vietnam and the world is being blurred through international research cooperation.
Reporting by Ha Kim - Translating by Thuy Linh - Editing by Ha Kim

Author: Hà Kim

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