Catalysis and Electrocatalysis
Catalysis science is a cornerstone of chemical engineering, which touches one-third of the global gross domestic product. With diminishing crude oil reserves and efforts to increase energy efficiency and lower emissions, catalysis science is at the center of innovations to produce chemicals and fuels via novel routes. Chemical engineers are at the core of this discipline by designing new catalysts that replace expensive precious metals with low-cost materials and by identifying reaction pathways to synthesize commodity chemicals via abundant raw materials (e.g., carbon dioxide and methane). Chemical engineering at the University of Rochester is uniquely equipped to educate students in heterogeneous catalysis, with two faculty recently hired with expertise in this area. By forming collaborations with homogeneous catalysis scientists in the chemistry department, the University of Rochester is poised to answer calls by the Department of Energy to bridge the gap between the two distinct areas of the field and develop collaborative research projects.
Electrocatalysis is a rich scientific discipline that integrates chemistry, materials science, thermodynamics, reaction kinetics, and transport phenomena, i.e., the core competencies of chemical engineers. Chemical Engineering is the only department at the University of Rochester that offers extensive expertise and training of students in this vital field, in pursuit of efficient electrochemical conversion of climate-damaging carbon dioxide into liquid fuels and upgraded chemicals or electrocatalytic organic oxidations. We use pulsed lasers in liquids synthesis to quickly create carefully tuned, systematic arrays of nanoparticles that can be easily compared and tested for use as electrocatalysts. Laser-made nanocatalysts are intrinsically more active than those obtained by wet chemistry methods. Metastable nanomaterials with non-equilibrium structures and compositions can easily be produced. Such materials cannot be made under moderate temperatures and pressures. Pulsed laser in liquids synthesis of nanomaterials is also far more rapid than traditional methods. These advantages of pulsed laser in liquids synthesis for the preparation of precisely controlled nanocatalysts, together with detailed chemical, physical and structural characterizations, benchmarking-type catalytic performance assessments, and a deep understanding of mechanisms during turnover, enable property−performance relationships, which are the foundation of accelerated catalyst discovery by rational design. This way, we develop much needed successor technologies for the benefit of society.
Active Faculty / Research Areas
A. M. Müller: Solid-State Electrocatalysis; Pulsed Laser in Liquids Synthesis of Controlled Nanomaterials; Nanocatalyst Property–Functionality Relationships; Selective CO2 Reduction Catalysis; Organic Electrooxidation Catalysis
M. D. Porosoff: CO2 Reduction; Heterogeneous Catalysis; Catalyst Structure-Property Relationships; C1 Chemistry; Upgrading Light Alkanes