USD chemistry professor earns plaudits for extraordinary research

VERMILLION, S.D. -- A chemistry professor at the University of South Dakota is being lauded for his outstanding research with both NASA and the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Ranjit Koodali, Ph.D., an associate professor of chemistry at the University of South Dakota, is in the process of helping NASA develop structures that will make it possible for people to live on the moon. He is also developing a process cited by the NSF to rapidly create a novel material that generates hydrogen in the presence of water and sunlight. The results of this research could lead to further developments of an alternative fuel source using solar energy.

Thanks to a $207,485 grant from NASA, Koodali’s research focuses on the design of a multi-functional structural composite insulation system for lunar habitats. According to Koodali, this project will directly address NASA's Exploration System Mission Directorate (ESMD) to develop a sustained human presence on the moon and Mars, and to promote exploration and commerce. The goal of this research includes developing and evaluating the performance of constituent insulating nanomaterials, and fabricating and testing load-bearing, high-thermal-insulation composite panels assembled from selected constituent materials. The project will be carried out through collaboration of faculty members and students from USD, the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, NASA research scientists, the Kennedy Space Center and industrial partners.

Additional research by Koodali, “Mesoporous Material Transforms Solar Energy Into Fuel,” has been cited in the NSF FY2013 Budget Request to Congress. “Mesoporous Material Transforms Solar Energy Into Fuel” is part of the Research Infrastructure Improvement Award’s PhotoActive Nanoscale Systems, and involves developing a method to rapidly create a novel material that generates hydrogen in the presence of water and sunlight. The research expands the understanding of how to generate fuel using visible sunlight rather than ultraviolet light. Because the hydrogen generation occurs at room temperature, the process easily scales up to large production volumes. Applications of the new material range from removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to the mitigation of environmental pollution. The complete NSF FY13 Budget Request to Congress is available for viewing online at: www.nsf.gov/about/budget/fy2013/pdf/EntireDocument_fy2013.pdf.

"The NSF is a key steward of federal funding for scientific research in the U.S.," said Laura Jenski, Ph.D., Vice President for Research at USD. "Having Dr. Koodali’s important research highlighted in this way is an honor for USD and underscores the valuable research happening at South Dakota universities."

Koodali is a member of the South Dakota Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) and he serves as the graduate program director for the USD Chemistry Department. He also serves on several university committees, including University Research Council, University Scholarship Committee, and the University Strategic Planning Committee. In addition, he also serves as the secretary of the Sioux Valley section of the American Chemical Society (ACS). He will serve as the program chair of the Energy and Fuel Division of ACS for the year 2014. Download a photo of Dr. Koodali.

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Founded in 1862 and the first university in the Dakotas, the University of South Dakota is the only public liberal arts university in the state, with 206 undergraduate and 71 graduate programs in the College of Arts & Sciences, School of Education, School of Law, Sanford School of Medicine, School of Health Sciences, Beacom School of Business and College of Fine Arts. With an enrollment of nearly 10,000 students and more than 400 faculty, USD has a 17:1 student/faculty ratio, and it ranks among the best in academics and affordability. USD’s 17 athletic programs compete at the NCAA Division I level.

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