For her work capturing snapshots of the very small, Amber Krummel has received a very large reward: a $750,000, five-year Early Career Award from the U.S. Department of Energy.
Krummel is an assistant professor in the College of Natural Sciences’ Department of Chemistry at Colorado State University and is one of 49 early-career scientists across the country (including her CSU chemistry colleague Jamie Neilson) to receive this distinction in 2016.
Her lab uses lasers and highly sensitive infrared (IR) measurements to understand how the microscopic affects the macro world. In particular, they are investigating molecular events that impact biological, geochemical and materials systems, such as how the acidic surface of rock might alter the flow of water or oil around through it. The lab also develops technology, including microfluidic devices and new mid-infrared laser systems, to better capture snapshots of these small-scale events – helping us understand how they impact large-scale dynamics.
Krummel’s DOE project is called “2D IR Microscopy – Technology for Visualizing Chemical Dynamics in Heterogeneous Environments.” The ability to understand chemistry in non-uniform environments inherent in energy technologies, from batteries to enhanced oil recovery, is essential to make the most out of the chemical dynamics at play, she explained in her project proposal.
Her hope is to develop better imaging capabilities, especially in very short timeframes. To do that, she will use mid-infrared laser technology developed in her lab to drive the development of a new type of microscope, making it possible to connect these molecular-sized events to observations made at human (or at least millimeter-length) scales.
“Support for this research effort will allow us to move 2D IR microscopy from a ‘proof of concept’ stage to an imaging modality,” she said. Such technology then “can be applied to investigate many different types of molecular systems that will impact efforts in biology, energy and materials research.”
Krummel won an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Research Fellowship in 2015, which includes a $50,000 grant. And in 2013 she was the recipient of a $600,000 National Science Foundation CAREER Award for early career faculty.