Research in the Ching Group focuses on developing new synthetic routes to porous manganese oxides and studying their catalytic activity. Manganese oxides take on a variety of structures and compositions, and many occur naturally as minerals in soils, sediments, marine manganese nodules and desert rock varnish. They attract considerable interest for their potential applications in heterogeneous catalysis, toxic waste remediation and rechargeable battery technology. By synthesizing manganese oxides in the lab, we design materials to improve their performance in these applications. An important characteristic is available surface area to maximize interfacial interactions between the manganese oxide and the phase in which it comes into contact. Thus, we have devised strategies of preparing manganese oxides with high surface areas in the form of (1) porous structures with layered and tunneled architectures and (2) materials with nanometer particle sizes.

Connecticut College students are major players in this research. They make new discoveries and other meaningful contributions that frequently lead to student presentations at conferences and co-authorship on peer-reviewed journal articles. Along the way, students in the Ching group learn to design and carry out experiments, analyze results, and propose subsequent experiments. In addition, they get to use advanced instrumentation related to materials chemistry research, learn to read and navigate the scientific literature, and strengthen their written and oral communication skills. As part of a research team, they also develop skills in courtesy, cooperation, and teamwork.

The Ching Group has received funding support from the Research Corporation for Scientific Advancement, the American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund, and the National Science Foundation.