Research

We design and develop new nanomaterials for applications in alternative energy and catalysis. We aim to gain a detailed understanding of the effect of geometry and composition on the physicochemical properties of nanocrystals, and use this information for developing rational design rules for the preparation of efficient materials for a sustainable society. The main application of our nanocatalysts is carbon dioxide conversion to fuels and value-added organic chemicals. Our research includes the following major directions:

Nanocrystal synthesis

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The ability to alter properties of nanocrystals by varying their structural characteristics (such as size, shape, surface morphology, and surface chemistry) paves the way for a variety of nanomaterials applications. We develop synthetic routes for shape-controlled nanocrystals and study their growth mechanisms to further expand nanochemistry synthetic toolbox.

Nanocatalysis

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Catalysts based on shape-controlled nanocrystals offer unsurpassed control over the arrangement of atoms on their surface to produce efficient catalytic active sites for industrially important catalytic processes. Due to new advances in synthetic procedures yielding shape specific nanocrystals, now it is an exciting and rewarding time for the design of the next generation of highly efficient catalysts to achieve lower production costs and sustainable use of rare materials. We study the effects of composition, size, shape, surface defects, and surface chemistry of shaped nanocrystals to gain a fundamental understanding of the structure – catalytic performance relationship in nanocatalysis.

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In addition to conventional catalysis, we explore our nanomaterials in electrocatalysis, with a focus on electrocatalytic carbon dioxide conversion into fuels and chemical feedstocks, as well as organic electrosynthesis. Renewable electricity from solar and wind provides a green source of electrons for chemical transformations, while nanocrystals with specific catalytic active sites serve as electrode materials for selective synthesis.

Reaction and reactor design

To maximize the performance of the catalysts and achieve carbon dioxide conversion scalability for industrial implementation, we also work on the general design of a scalable test reactor platform for subsequent reaction development, that will be achieved by utilizing device concepts from fuel cells and flow batteries with divided electrochemical compartments to help overcome the critical CO2 solubility issue and mass transport limitation.

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Ultimately, green routes for the synthesis of industrially-relevant fuels, carboxylic and amino acids will be identified and validated to bypass the need for petroleum-based precursors and unsustainable industrial processes.