Kate Plass Professor of Chemistry, Department Chair of Chemistry

Plass Research Group Website



B.S. Wayne State University

Ph.D. University of Michigan

Post-doctoral work, California Institute of Technology, 2006-2008


I am interested in how to transform simple nanoparticles into more complicated ones and the effect that this has on their energy conversion and light absorbing behaviors. Nanoparticle synthesis is not as well understood as traditional chemical synthesis. While organic chemists can design new drugs, inorganic chemists can design new molecular catalysts, and biochemists can design processes like CRISPR, nanomaterials chemists are much more dependent on luck. We aim to find new ways to controllably change the chemistry and shape of particles. We also then investigate how this affects a particle's light absorbing behavior, which alters its use in solar energy conversion or NIR photothermal cancer treatments. We also seek to use computational methods to model post-synthetic nanoparticle transformations.

Students with an interest in experimental chemistry are welcome to discuss with Prof. Plass how they can get involved with this work. Opportunities range from volunteer projects to summer research to academic year research through CHM 290/390/490.

All students are invited to participate in computational research through the nanobots Research Project. This project affords opportunities, not obligations. Come to the weekly meetings to participate (4:30-5:30p Thursdays, Hackman 412)

Nanobots, Computational Chemistry Research

This research is interdisciplinary and problem-focused, using techniques and models traditional to organic, inorganic, and physical chemistry, as well as physics and geology. Learn more about interdisciplinary materials research at F&M at our Materials Studies website.

Grants & Awards

2023-2026 National Science Foundation (DMR-2312618)

"RUI: Post-synthetic transformations of anions in metal chalcogenide nanoparticles: Uncovering synthetic design rules and the effect on subsequent transformations"

2022-2023 RSCA Postbac Award #28525

"Post-synthetic transformation of copper sulfide nanoparticles to design novel multicomponent nanoparticles"

2021-2024  National Science Foundation (OCE-2141721)

"RUI: Where does all the Mo go? Evaluating the role of iron sulfides in Mo accumulation in marine sediments"

2000-2023 National Science Foundation (DMR-2003337)

"RUI: Modulation of cation exchange using oxidation/reduction to design plasmonic nanoheterostructures

2016 Henry Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar Award

"Engineering Copper Sulfide Nanoparticles to Modulate Ion Exchange and Photocatalysis"

2008-2012 Camille and Henry Dreyfus Faculty Start-up Awards Program

“Synthesis, Surface Passivation, and Band Gap Tuning of Earth-Abundant Semiconductors for Solar Energy Conversion”

2008-2011 Research Corporation Cottrell College Science Award

“Synthesis and Photoelectrochemical Characterization of Earth-Abundant Semiconductors for Solar Energy Conversion”          

2008-2011 Petroleum Research Fund Undergraduate New Investigator Award

“Adsorption of Thiophenes at Liquid/Solid Interfaces”          

2012-2017 National Science Foundation (CHE-1149646) CAREER Award

“CAREER – Development of Earth-Abundant Mixed-Metal Sulfide Nanoparticles for use in Solar Energy Conversion”  


Independent Work At F&M

(Undergraduate student coauthor are in bold.)

Hole, B.; Luo, Q.; Garcia, R.; Xie, W.; Rudman, E.; Dhakal, D.; Nguyen, C. L. T.; Young, H. L.; Thompson, K. L.; Butterfield, A. G.; Schaak, R. E.; Plass, K. E. Temperature-Dependent Selection of Reaction Pathways, Reactive Species, and Products during Post-Synthetic Selenization of Copper Sulfide Nanoparticles. Chem. Mater.  2023  https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.chemmater.3c01772.

Jensen, M.; Plass, K.E.; Anderson, M.E. Synthetic Strategies, Thermal Stability, and Optical Properties for Nanostructured Famatinite with Cu-Site Doping. Chem. Mater. 2022 https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.chemmater.2c01888.

Espinosa, A.R.; Novak, M.; Luo; Q.; Hole, B.; Doligon, C. Prenza Sosa, K.;Gray, J.L.; Rossi, D.P.; Plass, K.E. Heterostructures of Cu2‑xS/Cu2‑xTe plasmonic semiconductors: Disappearing and reappearing LSPR with anion exchange. Chem. Comm. 2022, 58, 9810 - 9813 DOI: 10.1039/D2CC01859D. 

Garcia-Herrera, L. F.; McAllister, H. P.; Xiong, H.; Wang, H.; Lord, R. W.; O’Boyle, S. K.; Imamovic, A.; Steimle, B. C.; Schaak, R. E.; Plass, K. E. Multi-Step Regioselectivity and Non-Kirkendall Anion Exchange of Copper Chalcogenide Nanorods. Chem. Mater 2021 DOI: 10.1021/acs.chemmater.1c01107.

Miller, N.; Dougherty, M.; Du, R.; Sauers, T.; Yan, C.; Pines, J. E.; Meyers, K. L.; Dang, Y. M.; Nagle, E.; Ni, Z.; Pungsrisai, T.; Wetherington, M. T.; Vorlicek, T. P.; Plass, K. E.; Morford, J. L. Adsorption of Tetrathiomolybdate to Iron Sulfides and Its Impact on Iron Sulfide Transformations. ACS Earth Space Chem. 2020 4, 2246–2260 DOI: 10.1021/acsearthspacechem.0c00176..

Le, H. K. D.; Xiong, H.; Page, B. A.; Garcia-Herrera, L. F.; McAllister, H. P.; Li, B. C.;  Wang, H.; Plass, K. E. Effects of I2 on Cu2-xS nanoparticles: Enabling cation exchange but complicating plasmonics. ACS Materials Lett. 2020, 2, 140–146 DOI: 10.1021/acsmaterialslett.9b00402.

Georgieva, Z.N.; Tomat, M.A.; Kim, C.; Plass, K.E. Stabilization of plasmon resonance in Cu2-xS semiconductor nanoparticles. Chem. Comm., 2016, 10.1039/c6cc00503a.

Freymeyer, N. J.; Cunningham, P. D.; Jones, E. C., Golden, B. J.; Wiltrout, A. M.; Plass, K. E. Influence of solvent reducing ability on copper sulfide crystal phase. Cryst. Grow. Des. 2013, 13, 4059–4065.

Heller, L. E.; Whitleigh, J.; Roth, D. F.; Oherlein, E. M.; Lucci, F. R.; Kolonko, K. J.; Plass, K. E. Self-Assembly of Mono-Functionalized Thiophenes. Langmuir, 2012, 28 (42), 14855–14859.

Machani, T.; Rossi, D. P.; Golden, B. J.; Jones, E. C.; Lotfipour, M.; Plass, K. E. Synthesis of monoclinic and tetragonal chalcocite nanoparticles by iron-induced stabilization. Chem. Mater, 2011, 23, 5491-5495.

Wiltrout, A. M.; Freymeyer, N. J.; Machani, T.; Rossi, D. P.; Plass, K. E. Phase-Selective Synthesis of Bornite Nanoparticles. J. Mater. Chem, 2011, 21, 19286-19292.

Lotfipour, M.; Machani, T.; Rossi, D. P.; Plass, K. E. alpha-Chalcocite Nanoparticle Synthesis and Stability. Chem. Mater., 2011, 23, 3032-3038.

Postdoctoral and Graduate Work

Plass, K.E.; Filler, M.A.; Spurgeon, J.M.; Kayes, B.M.; Maldonado, S.; Atwater, H.; Lewis, N.S. Flexible Polymer-Embedded Silicon Wire Arrays. Adv. Mater. 2009, 21, 325-328.  Patent awarded.

Spurgeon, J.M.; Plass, K.E.; Kayes, B.M.; Maldonado, S.; Atwater, H.; Lewis, N.S. Repeated epitaxial growth and transfer of arrays of patterned, vertically aligned, crystalline Si wires from a single Si(111) substrate. App. Phys. Lett. 2008, 93, 032112. Patent awarded.

Kayes, B.M.; Filler, M.A.; Henry, M.D.; Maiolo III, J.R.; Kelzenberg, M.D.; Putnam, M.C.; Spurgeon, J.M.; Plass, K.E.; Lewis, N.S.; Atwater, H.A. Radial p-n Junction Si Wire Array Solar Cells. Proceedings of the 33rd IEEE Photovoltaics Specialists 2008.

Plass, K.E.; Liu, X.; Brunschwig, B. S.; Lewis, N.S. Passivation and Secondary Functionalization of Allyl-Terminated Si(111) Surfaces. Chem. Mater. 2008, 20, 2228-2233.

Plass, K.E.; Engle, K.M.; Matzger, A.J. Contrasting Two- and Three-Dimensional Crystal Properties of Isomeric Dialkyl Phthalates. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2007, 129, 15211-15217.

Maldonado, S.; Plass, K.E.; Knapp, D.W.; Lewis, N.S. Electrical Properties of Junctions Between Hg and Si(111) Surfaces Functionalized with Short Chain Alkyls. J. Phys. Chem. C  2007, 111, 17690-17699.

Plass, K.E.; Grzesiak, A.L.; Matzger, A.J. Molecular Packing and Symmetry of Two-Dimensional Crystals. Acc. Chem. Res. 2006, 40, 287-293.

Plass, K.E.; Matzger, A.J. Molecule-Based Nanopatterning with Expanded Periodicity. Poly. Mater. Sci. Eng. 2006, 95, 923-924.

Plass, K.E.; Matzger, A.J. Spatial and Temporal Control Over Adsorption from Multicomponent Solutions. Chem. Comm. 2006, 33, 3486-3488. Featured on the cover.

Furukawa, H.; Kim, J.; Plass, K.E.; Yaghi, O.M. Crystal Structure, Dissolution, and Deposition of a 5 nm Functionalized Metal–Organic Great Rhombicuboctahedron. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2006, 128, 8398-8399.

Plass, K.E.; Engle, K.M.; Cychosz, K.A.; Matzger, A.J. Large-periodicity Two-Dimensional Crystals by Cocrystallization. Nano Lett. 2006, 6, 1178-1183.

Kim, K.; Plass, K.E.; Matzger, A.J. Structure of and Competitive Adsorption in Alkyl Dicarbamate Two-Dimensional Crystals. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2005, 127, 4879-4887.

Kim, K.; Plass, K.E.; Matzger, A.J. Conformational Pseudopolymorphism and Orientational Disorder in Two-Dimensional Alkyl Carbamate Crystals. Langmuir 2005, 21, 647-655.

Plass, K.E.; Kim, K.; Matzger, A.J. Two-Dimensional Crystallization: Self-Assembly, Pseudopolymorphism, and Symmetry Independent Molecules. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2004, 126, 9042-9053.

Rowe, M.P.; Plass, K.E.; Kim, K.; Kurdak, Ç.; Zellers, E.T.; Matzger, A.J. Single-Phase Synthesis of Functionalized Gold Nanoparticles. Chem. Mater. 2004, 16, 3513-3517.

Kim, K.; Plass, K.E.; Matzger, A.J. Kinetic and Thermodynamic Forms of a Two-Dimensional Crystal. Langmuir 2003, 19, 7149-7152. Featured on the cover.

Course Information


CHM 111 - General Chemistry I: Picturing the Atomic World, Lecture & Lab

CHM 222 - Inorganic Chemistry: Chemistry Across the Periodic Table, Lecture & Lab

CHM 374 - The Chemistry of Solar Energy Conversion

CHM 412 - Materials Chemistry Senior capstone course

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