The Lyon research laboratory has two active research interests. Strongly bound atomic clusters are unique in that their structures often have little resemblance to the bulk material in nature and, consequently, sometimes have novel chemical properties. Dr. Lyon is interested in studying the different properties of these clusters. For example, we have shown that clusters of 19 and 20 gold atoms have pyramidal shapes, which do not resemble the arrangement of gold atoms in the bulk material. We are also interested in how the properties of clusters change when doped with atoms of other elements, and determining the structures of mixed element clusters. Such clusters have applications to catalysts, electronics, and astrochemistry.
Dr. Lyon’s second research interest currently involves studying the reactions that occur between small molecules and metal atoms or clusters. By gaining a more detailed molecular-level understanding of these reactions, this research may provide information about more efficient chemical pathways. As an example, some of the lightest parts of petroleum exist in the gaseous state in nature. Collecting these gasses in the field and transporting them to a chemical plant is extremely expensive. Conversion of these gasses into a usable liquid fuel such as methanol, could then be more easily transported to a plant via existing pipelines. Research in this direction may provide information on whether transition metal and metalloid catalysts can promote the conversion of these gasses to more manageable liquid fuels.