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Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Rensselaer Chemistry and Chemical Biology
Chulsung Bae
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Chulsung Bae

Associate Professor

Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Education

Postdoc, Yale University, 2004
Ph.D., University of Southern California (USC), 2002
MS, University of Massachusetts Lowell, 1997
MS, Pohang University of Science & Technology (POSTECH), 1994
BS, Inha University, 1992

Career Highlights

Dr. Bae received a Ph.D. in chemistry at University of Southern California in 2002 under the guidance of G. K. Surya Prakash and Nobel Laureate George A. Olah. Following his graduate work, Dr. Bae moved to Yale University to carry out postdoctoral studies with John F. Hartwig investigating functionalization of C-H bonds in alkanes and polyolefins. He started independent career at University of Nevada Las Vegas as Assistant Professor in 2004 and was promoted to Associate Professor in 2010. During his tenure at University of Nevada Las Vegas, Dr. Bae received New Investigator Award (2005), ACS-Petroleum Research Fund Grant (2006), and NSF CAREER Award (2008). In summer of 2012 Dr. Bae joined Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Research Areas

Dr. Bae’s research areas encompass organic chemistry, green chemistry, polymer chemistry, and materials science. Broadly speaking, Dr. Bae’s research group focuses on development of functional organic/polymeric materials that might find special applications, particularly for clean energy and environment technologies, using synthetic organic chemistry tools. Currently his group pursues two major branches of research in that direction: (i) ion-conducting polymer materials for applications in energy conversion device and (ii) easily recoverable polymeric catalysts for applications in green chemistry.

Ion-conducting Polymers for Clean Energy Technology Applications
Fuel cells hold significant promise as an alternative energy technology with many advantages over the fossil fuel combustion such as high energy conversion efficiency and environmentally friendly operation. Additionally, fuel cells offer high energy density by virtue of their use of chemical fuels, which is a limitation in many other electrochemical energy storage and conversion devices. Of the different types of fuel cells, proton exchange membrane fuel cells (PEMFCs) are the most attractive candidate for automobile application because of high power density. Polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM), typically made of ion-conducting polymers, critically determines the power output performance of PEMFCs device.

So far perfluorosulfonic acid ionomers such as Nafion have been the most widely tested PEM material. Unfortunately, Nafion has serious drawbacks that prevent widespread commercial application in PEMFCs, including high cost, rare availability of fluorine-containing precursors, reduced proton conductivity above 100 °C, and high methanol crossover in direct methanol fuel cells.

The goal of this research project is to develop novel proton-conducting materials that will significantly advance progress in fuel cell technology. Recently, we have developed a new controlled polymer functionalization method based on borylation of C-H bonds in aromatic polymer. This new synthetic method has allowed to incorporate various types of sulfonate groups into polymers. Synthesis and characterization of these new ionic polymers will advance our understanding of relationships between chemical structure and performance of the materials in fuel cell properties at molecular level and, eventually, lead to development of next-generation PEMs that overcome the limitation of currently available fuel cell membranes.

Recyclable Polymer Catalysts for Green Chemistry Applications
To be economically viable, many industrial organic chemical reactions require a catalyst to accelerate product formation. Efficiently catalyzed chemical processes are economically advantageous to chemical industries because they shorten reaction times and enable new reaction pathways that reduce the steps in a given chemical process. These improvements can also decrease environmental impact by lowering energy consumption, raw material usage, and waste generation. Thus, the development of highly efficient and selective catalysts is of crucial importance to the future of green chemistry.

Although homogeneous catalysts, whose catalytic sites are all accessible in a solution, provide numerous advantages over heterogeneous catalysts including enhanced reaction rate and selectivity, their use on an industrial scale has been severely hampered owing to the difficulty of separating the catalyst from the product. To facilitate this separation, researchers have attempted to immobilize the catalysts to various soluble and insoluble supports, but these efforts have met with only limited success.

We develop novel polymer-supported catalysts that will be highly active and conveniently recovered (and potentially recycled) after reaction owing to solubility difference of polymeric catalyst and reactants. Our ultimate goal is to develop polymeric catalysts that offer the advantages of both homogeneous catalysis (e.g., good reaction rate and selectivity, convenient reaction monitoring, and easy tuning of the catalyst) and heterogeneous catalysis (e.g., convenient recovery of the catalyst in quantitative yields) in catalytic reactions. These high-value polymer materials could find special applications in environmentally more friendly chemical technology.

Selected Recent Publications

1. Y. Chang, G. F. Brunello, J. Fuller, M. Hawley, Y. S. Kim, M. Disabb-Miller, M. A. Hickner, S. S. Jang, C. Bae "Aromatic Ionomers with Highly Acidic Sulfonate Groups: Acidity, Hydration, and Proton Conductivity" Macromolecules 2011, 44, 8458–8469.

2. Y. Chang, Y. –B. Lee, C. Bae "Partially Fluorinated Sulfonated Poly(ether amide) Fuel Cell Membranes: Influence of Chemical Structure on Membrane Properties" Polymers 2011, 3, 222–235.

3. Y. Chang, C. Bae "Polymer-Supported Acid Catalysis in Organic Synthesis" Current Org. Synth. 2011, 8, 208–236. (invited review article for Green Synthesis Special issue of Current Organic Synthesis)

4. J. Shin, Y. Chang, T. L. T. Nguyen, S. K. Noh, C. Bae "Hydrophilic Functionalization of Syndiotactic Polystyrene via a Combination of Bromination and Suzuki-Miyaura Reaction" J. Polym. Sci. Part A: Polym. Chem. 2010, 48, 4335–4343.

5. Y. Chang, H. Lee, C. Bae "Direct Fluorination of the Carbonyl Group of Benzophenones Using Deoxo-Fluor®: Preparation of Bis(4-Fluorophenyl)difluoromethane" Org. Synth. 2010, 87, 245–252. (invited article)

6. L. V. Brownell, J. Shin, C. Bae "Synthesis of Polar Block Grafted Syndiotactic Polystyrenes via a Combination of Iridium-catalyzed Activation of Aromatic C–H Bonds and Atom Transfer Radical Polymerization" J. Polym. Sci. Part A: Polym. Chem. 2009, 47, 6655–6667.

7. J. Shin, J. Bertoia, K. R. Czerwinski, C. Bae "A New Homogeneous Polymer Support Based on Syndiotactic Polystyrene and Its Application in Palladium-Catalyzed Suzuki-Miyaura Cross-Coupling Reactions" Green Chem. 2009, 11, 1576–1580.

8. T. S. Jo, M. Yang, L. V. Brownell, C. Bae, "Synthesis of Quaternary Ammonium Ion–Grafted Polyolefins via Activation of Inert C–H Bonds and Nitroxide Mediated Radical Polymerization " J. Polym. Sci. Part A: Polym. Chem. 2009, 47, 4519–4531.

9. T. S. Jo, S. H. Kim, J. Shin, C. Bae, "Highly Efficient Incorporation of Functional Groups into Aromatic Main-Chain Polymer Using Iridium-Catalyzed C–H Activation and Suzuki-Miyaura Reaction" J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2009, 131, 1656–1657.

10. T. S. Jo, C. H. Ozawa, B. R. Eagar, L. V. Brownell, D. Han, C. Bae, "Synthesis of Sulfonated Aromatic Poly(ether amide)s and Their Application to Proton Exchange Membrane Fuel Cells" J. Polym. Sci. Part A: Polym. Chem. 2009, 47, 485–496.

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