Our group aims to develop catalytic materials that are utilized in sustainable production of fuels and chemicals. A grand challenge in the development of catalytic materials is understanding and designing the active site structure under reactive environments. Catalysis research has focused on the development of structure-performance relationships, where the observed activity, selectivity, and/or stability of a catalyst is related to the initial material structure to understand the nature of the active site for a particular conversion.
The challenge, however, is that the material structure is typically determined through ex situ characterization methods despite strong evidence for catalyst reconstruction and dynamics under reaction conditions as a function of temperature, pressure, and chemical potential. Thus, an opportunity exists to bridge the gap between catalyst structure as synthesized and its state under reaction conditions.
In our group, we aim to design catalysts for the structure under reaction conditions. This will be done through a multipronged approach, involving materials synthesis, in situ and operando spectroscopy, microscopy, reaction kinetics, and kinetic modeling. Combining the synthesis of well-defined catalytic materials with spectroscopic measurement of surface species under reaction conditions will elucidate the role of various components in catalyst structure and resulting performance. This information is then employed to design improved catalytic materials.
Current projects include:
Investigating interfacial sites for CO2 conversion
We utilize well controlled catalyst synthesis methods to form model metal nanoparticle catalysts. Through a variety of adsorption, spectroscopic, and kinetic measurements, we seek to understand the role that metal-oxide interfacial sites play in metal structure and subsequently directing catalytic activity and selectivity.
Figure. Investigating the impact of interfacial sites between metal nanoparticles and oxides supports on metal structure and resulting performance for CO2 conversion.
Development of metal embedded catalytic membranes
We are working on the development of catalytic membrane materials for simultaneous conversion of nitrogen and methane. Specifically, we are focused on identifying the controlling factors for metal structure within a carbon molecular sieve membrane and developing structure performance relationships for these materials. This work is currently funded by the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission.
Designing stable catalysts for dehydrogenation chemistry
We are studying the mechanisms of oxidative dehydrogenation chemistry using CO2 as a soft oxidant as a route for effective natural gas conversion. With an improved mechanistic understanding of this reaction, we seek to design catalytic materials with improved stability. This work is currently funded by the American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund.
Figure. Investigation of the mechanism of alkane dehydrogenation using CO2 as a soft oxidant and development of stable multicomponent catalysts.