Area #2: Catalytic Studies on Nanoscale Model Surfaces

Well-defined bimetallic nanomaterials provide a platform for structure-activity studies of catalytic transformations at the intersection of macroscopic single crystal model surfaces and working catalysts, thereby filling the critical “pressure and materials gap” in catalyst design from fundamental principles.

Large nanoparticles (50-100 nm) with precision surfaces are ideal analogues of model single crystals used in UHV surface science experiments and computational studies because of their ordered atomic arrangement. In addition, these nanoscale model materials have the added advantage of also possessing sufficient surface area to operate as catalysts with a measurable turnover rate. Our research group is studying these precise “nanoscale model surfaces” under realistic catalytic conditions by tracking structure-function relationships resulting from clearly defined modifications of surface atomic arrangement, elemental composition, and the presence of molecular adsorbates. With this platform, we have the ability to validate predictions from UHV and computational surface science under working catalytic conditions. Our group recently demonstrated proof of concept for this approach in the context of oxygen-assisted coupling reactions of alcohols. Building on this precedent, we are studying selective oxidation and hydrogenation reactions relevant to industrial chemical synthesis and the production of sustainable high-energy-density fuels and bio-based chemicals from biomass feedstocks.

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