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Xuetong Pei

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Tell us about yourself

I am Xuetong Pei and I am a third year PhD at Loughborough University, working with Dr Simon Kondrat in the Chemistry department. I am also a research student in the SLOWCAT group in Loughborough University for designing new catalysts for transforming biomass into renewable resources which could be an alternative for fossil fuels. My project is the design and synthesis of single-site and single atom catalysts which share the properties of both homogeneous and heterogeneous catalysts. The catalytic properties will be tested with the Guerbet reaction by forming longer chain alcohols.

Can you give us an overview of your project?

The aim of the project is to employ ruthenium as active sites for designing single-site heterogenous catalysts (e.g. metal organic frameworks or polymer frameworks), indicating how the catalysts influence the Guerbet reaction by using ethanol conversion and n-butanol selectivity. Homogeneous catalysts are also synthesised for comparison and to understand the reaction mechanism.

How did the seedcorn access help?

I was interested in using X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) in order to determine the elemental composition of my samples, which contain Pd and Cl. However the peaks for these are overlapped each other due to the shoulder peak for Cl sharing same energy band with Pd main peak. The XRF in Loughborough University is missing the wavelength dispersion capability and so cannot separate them, giving big error in Pd composition. Moreover, Ru content is inaccurate as it overlaps with the background. So it is really hard to get accurate elemental composition.

How did you hear about the seedcorn access?

The first time that I heard about the seedcorn is from Mark Edgar who is the NMR technician in our department, because I would like to do solid NMR and our instrument is broken. And investigating XRF, the technician in our Materials department, Shaun Fowler, sent me detailed information containing all the facility information and email address.

How was the application process?

I found it is really simple and easy. The technicians who are the expert in XRF and NMR were really helpful, and they introduced all the information that need to be noted and how to prepare the samples before doing the analysis. All the questions listed in the application form are really clear and easy to answer. For filling the form, it took no longer than two hours to finish the application.


What were the outcomes?

The XRF data that I got from Dr Christopher Waldron is really helpful and it explained the confusion that I got from catalysis data, especially the Pd composition, and I could understand the activity of Pd for Guerbet reaction, so that I could synthesise a better catalyst with better results. I will use the data for future paper publication and a conference presentation, which we are in the process of submitting.

To understand more about XRF and what the difference is between the instrument that we have in LMCC, I visited Warwick University rather than sending the samples. Chris was really helpful, and he introduced how the XRF instrument works and how to set it up, including loading the sample. His introduction was really clear and easy to understand. He could answer the questions that you I had and processed the data. During the analysis, he showed me around the campus and introduced the other instruments that I could apply for analysis. It was really interesting journey. I am really glad that I got the data from WASC and use them to understand my material.

What would you have done without the seedcorn access?

I think without the help from WASC, I would have to find and pay another institution to help us run the samples or come up with another method to analysis them which will not be that accurate than XRF. And it is really helpful that afterwards, based on our discussions, Chris ran the samples again and did some correction on the data, making it more reliable. I think if I payed anther facility to help me run the sample, they will run them once and not re-examine the data for us if we did not pay to use the instrument again.